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USA – Trussel for sig selv og verden

usa

USA er stadig en global supermagt, der gennem kynisk udnyttelse af militær og økonomisk magt har trynet verdenssamfundet uhindret i det sidste århundrede. Selvom landets status som supermagt er svække i stigende grad udfordres af bl.a. Kina, bærer landet stadig skylden for en lang række af vedens dårligdomme. Egne borgere undertrykkes af politiet, mens droneangreb og militærteknologisk overlegenhed holder resten af omverdenen i ave.

Af Albert Jensen

De økonomiske kriser i USA efter år 2000 – IT-boblen i 2001 og finansboblen i 2008 – bekræfter, at supermagten fortsat er baseret på en spekulationsøkonomi. Kapitalen har store vanskeligheder med at finde produktive anbringelser for sine profitter, som i stedet anbringes spekulativt. Det udløser massiv kapitaldestruktion ved hvert krisesammenbrud.
Krisen i 2001 skyldtes næsten et årtis spekulative investeringer i IT-virksomheder. Efter det sammenbrud søgte den ledige kapital over i spekulation i fast ejendom, og det fik boligpriserne til at eksplodere. Storbanker, pensionsselskaber og finanshuse deltog aktivt i det spekulationscirkus, som endte med et brag i 2008, da stribevis af finanshuse gik ned og var tæt ved at trække de største banker med i faldet. Bankerne blev kun reddet, fordi staten gik ind med en hjælpepakke på over 700 milliarder dollars. En betydelig del af den kapitaldestruktion, der fandt sted, blev derved finansieret af staten, som kunne udskrive checken, fordi den kunne udstede statsobligationer – der blev købt af Kina.
Højrefløjen i kongressen blokkerer regelmæssigt for det statslige budget – så offentligt ansatte i perioder må klare sig uden løn. Det er dog mere et politisk sygdomstegn end et økonomisk, da supermagtens udlandsgæld ved udgangen af 2015 ”kun” var på 97 % af BNP. I Grækenland var tallet 213 %, i Frankrig 207 %, i Storbritannien 311 % og i Irland 797 %.
USA søger at kompensere for sin relativt faldende økonomiske betydning med en hastig befolkningstilvækst. I 1980 boede der 226 millioner mennesker i USA, 35 år senere var de steget til 319 millioner – en stigning på over 40 procent. Mens USA og Rusland ved den russiske revolution i 1917 befolkningsmæssigt var nogenlunde lige store, er USA nu mere end dobbelt så stor. Den væsentligste kilde til befolkningstilvæksten er især indvandrere fra Latinamerika, men også Asien. I løbet af det 21. århundrede er der derfor udsigt til, at den ’hvide’ befolkning (af europæisk oprindelse) kommer i mindretal. Det nærer racismen på den hvide højrefløj.

Industri og arbejderklasse under pres
I perioden 2000-15 faldt antallet af industri-arbejdspladser i landet fra 19 mio. til 12 mio. – mere end hvert tredje industrijob forsvandt. Arbejderklassens kerne i USA er dermed i stadigt fald – og det samme er kapitalismens kerne i landet.
Samtidig stiger uligheden. Mens direktørlønninger i 1965 var 24 gange højere end en gennemsnitlig arbejderløn, var de i 2005 262 gange højere og i 2013 296 gange højere. Blandt de fattige er reallønnen faldet så meget, at begrebet ”working poor” er blevet udbredt. Altså arbejdere, der ikke længere kan overleve på blot een indkomst, men er nødt til at have to eller flere job. Nogle delstater har siden 2010 gennemført lovgivning, som indskrænker eller helt forbyder retten til faglig organisering for yderligere at presse arbejderklassen.

Obama-illusioner
På venstrefløjen troede mange i 2008, at valget af Barack Obama som præsident ville medføre forandringer – at han i det mindste ville gennemføre visse reformer. Obamas embedsperiode har vist, at det var særdeles naivt. Som en af sine første embedshandlinger lukkede han Guantanamo-fangelejren pr. dekret, men 7 år senere eksisterer lejren fortsat i bedste velgående. Selv om valget af landets første præsident af afrikansk afstamning ikke førte til reformer, førte det til en voldsom polarisering af landets politik og især en stærk polarisering inden for det republikanske parti. Den højreradikale Tea Party-bevægelse vandt frem og blev fulgt af endnu mere højreradikale grupper og personer, der efter 50 års tilbagerulning af racismen i landet atter har sat den højrøstede racisme på dagsordenen. Hadet blandt de højreradikale rettes mod afro-amerikanske, latinamerikanske og muslimske indbyggere i landet.
I byerne optrapper staten sit voldsmonopol for at bekæmpe opposition og protester. Politiets køretøjer, uddannelse og våben militariseres i stigende grad, så ’ordensmagtens’ omgang med civilbefolkningen mere og mere ligner militærets omgang med den irakiske civilbefolkning under besættelsen af Irak. Alene i 2015 dræbte politiet i USA over 2.000 uskyldige civile. Politibrutaliteten udløser lejlighedsvis oprør i nordamerikanske byer.

Global magtprojektion under forandring
USA’s projektion af magt er ikke længere primært økonomisk. I takt med den stadige økonomiske svækkelse af supermagten bliver det i stigende grad militæret, som har den vigtigste rolle som projektion af magt. USA har i dag 769 baser og militære faciliteter i 41 lande (uden for USA) og 7 kolonier. Landets årlige militærbudget på 650 mia. dollars er lige så stort som de næststørste 8 landes militærbudgetter – tilsammen!
Supermagtens seneste massive militære magtprojektion finder sted i Asien, hvor det siden 2001 har ført krige i Afghanistan, Irak, Yemen og Syrien. Umiddelbart kan de virke som nederlag, men det er kun på overfladen. Krigene blev udtænkt af neokonservative politikere tæt knyttet til Israel. Planerne fik først mulighed for at blive realiseret, da Bush jr. kom til magten i 2001. Israels mål med krigene var at fjerne de sikkerhedspolitiske trusler fra de verdslige regimer i Mellemøsten og Nordafrika. Den langsigtede løsning for Israel var ikke ”regime change”, men total udradering af de pågældende stater. Den første skydeskive var Irak. Landets militær og det tidligere regeringsparti blev umiddelbart efter USA’s besættelse opløst og landet opdelt efter religiøse og etniske skel; så det i 2015 reelt består af et kurdisk nord, et shiitisk syd og øst, og et sunni vest – der overvejende er under IS kontrol. Med ophøret som sammenhængende stat er Irak samtidig ophørt med at eksistere som en sikkerhedspolitisk trussel mod Israel.
Det næste land var Libyen, hvor Gaddafi blev fjernet og dræbt i 2011. Landet er siden opdelt efter klan- og stamme-skillelinjer og er fra 2011 ophørt med at eksistere som en sammenhængende, fungerende stat.
Derefter kom turen til Syrien, som siden Israels dannelse i 1948 har været den ene af landets to hovedfjender. Den borgerkrig, som USA, EU og deres allierede i de arabiske olie-diktaturer siden 2011 har finansieret og støttet, har effektivt neutraliseret Syrien som trussel mod Israel. Syriens opsplitning efter etniske og religiøse linjer vil med stor sandsynlighed medføre en de-facto deling af landet i mange årtier fremover.
Magttomrummet i de lande, USA har smadret, bliver nu udfyldt af IS og andre jihadister, der imidlertid ikke er trusler mod Israel (som i vid udstrækning arbejder sammen med dem). At de er en trussel mod EU i form af enorme flygtningestrømme og terror, får ikke USA til at engagere sig. Supermagten har angiveligt været i spidsen for en bombekampagne rettet mod IS. Men mens Saddam Hussein og hans militær blev bombet sønder og sammen og sat fra bestillingen på blot 1½ måned, har USAs lejlighedsvise bombetogter ikke skadet IS. Tværtimod har det gjort bevægelsen til en magnet for jihadister, religiøst forfulgte muslimer og frustrerede unge fra hele verden.
USA har på opdrag fra Israel skabt det kaos i Mellemøsten og har ingen interesse i at ændre på den situation. Derfor har det været provokerende for supermagten, at Rusland siden september 2015 effektivt har angrebet IS og de andre jihadister i Syrien og næsten standset dens eksport af olie til Tyrkiet.

Droner giver lig og arbejdspladser
Krigene i Afghanistan og Irak skabte enorme ordrer til supermagtens militær-industrielle kompleks og gav grundlag for yderligere udvikling af nye våben, der kan bevare supermagtens status som verdens største våbeneksportør. Producerer landet efterhånden ikke så meget andet, producerer det i det mindste våben. En væsentlig del af den våbenteknologiske udvikling de seneste 10 år har været koncentreret om at udvikle droner, så halvdelen af supermagtens ’luftvåben’ i 2015 består af droner. De sættes ind mod mål i Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia og Syrien. Effektiviteten er yderst begrænset, de fleste, der dræbes er civile. Men det giver grundlag for våbenteknologisk udvikling, og dermed, at USA’s våbenindustri får ordrerne på droner de kommende 10-20 år. Drone-’krigen’ handler ikke om at ramme ”bad guys”, men om at sikre våbenindustrien ordrer. Mange af det 21. århundredes konflikter vil tage afsæt i den stigende globale og nationale ulighed – og i klimaforandringerne, der ødelægger levevilkårene, f.eks. tørken i Syrien. USA ønsker at sikre sin militærindustri som hovedleverandør af våben til de konflikter.
USA er siden slutningen af 1980’erne blevet drastisk svækket i Latinamerika. De diktaturer – USA gennem det 20. århundrede havde installeret i kontinentet ud fra devisen: ”He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch” – blev et efter et nedkæmpet og overgik til borgerligt demokrati. I de fleste lande var det populistisk-venstreorienterede partier, der ikke glemte USA’s støtte til militærdiktaturerne, og som derfor placerede sig i opposition til USA. Ikke blot blev USA politiske isoleret i regionen. De nye regeringer gav nye ordrer og koncessioner til Kina og europæiske stater. – Utænkeligt 20 år tidligere.
USA forsøgte at bremse den udvikling. I 2002 ved at søge at gennemføre militærkup i Venezuela – der imidlertid slog fejl og blot forstærkede supermagtens isolation. I 2009 gennemførte det militærkup i Honduras og i 2012 i Paraguay – for at fjerne venstredrejede populistiske præsidenter. I november 2015 lykkedes det højrefløjen at genvinde magten i Argentina, efter USA de foregående år havde ført en økonomisk destabiliserings-kampagne mod landet. I december vandt højrefløjen i Venezuela – stærkt støttet af USA – parlamentsvalget. Samme måned fik højrefløjen i Brasilien sat en rigsretssag i gang mod landets præsident Dilma Rousseff – og forstærkede sammen med USA bestræbelserne på at gennemføre statskup. USA arbejder fokuseret på at genvinde sin politiske indflydelse i regionen.
Frem til 00’erne var USA’s interesse for Afrika begrænset. Supermagten havde tætte forbindelser til de enevældige monarkier i Marokko og Egypten samt apartheidstyret i Sydafrika. Fra slutningen af 1990’erne begyndte Kina imidlertid at ekspandere sit engagement i Afrika for at sikre sig adgang til kontinentets naturressourcer. USA svarede igen i 2007 med oprettelsen af AFRICOM (United States Africa Command), der skulle sikre supermagtens militære overherredømme på kontinentet. I mangel af bedre placering fik den militære struktur imidlertid hovedkvarter i Tyskland!! Initiativet er nærmest blev ignoreret på kontinentet, som i stedet har prioriteret det økonomiske samarbejde med Kina.

Kina er hovedfjenden
I Østasien har USA gennem 00’erne optrappet det geopolitiske pres på Kina gennem optrapning af konflikten på den koreanske halvø. Det højreorienterede regime i Sydkorea indstillede i 2005 normaliseringen med Nordkorea, og de følgende år optrappede Sydkorea og USA konflikten, der indirekte lagde pres på Kina. I 2015 gik USA videre og lod Japan indlede opbygningen af militær angrebskapacitet. Der var tale om et historisk skift, efter at Japan gennem 70 år kun havde haft lov til at have et forsvar. Oprustningen er udtryk for, at USA ikke alene har ressourcer til militært at sikre den militære inddæmning af Kina, men nu også er afhængig af Japans militær til det formål. Trods grænsestridigheder omkring øer i det østkinesiske og sydkinesiske hav, der blæses op i de vestlige medier, er Kinas svar primært økonomisk. Kina viger tilbage fra at blive inddraget i en militær styrkeprøve på USA’s præmisser og satser i stedet på udbygget handel og økonomisk samarbejde med landene i regionen. Det gavner Kinas økonomi og svækker USA’s økonomiske indflydelse. USA søger at bremse den udvikling gennem handelspolitiske traktater, som indgåelsen af TPP aftalen (Trans-Pacific Partnership) mellem 12 lande rundt om Stillehavet i oktober 2015. Selv om aftalen angiveligt er en frihandelsaftale, er den et kompliceret sæt af overgangsordninger og særlige hensyn, som skal beskytte strategiske dele af USA’s industri og sikre dem adgang til markeder, de ellers har været lukket ude fra.
Sikkerhedspolitisk er de gamle imperialistiske centre i Europa samt Australien og New Zealand halehæng til USA. Med få undtagelser – som Frankrigs modstand mod at lade sig trække ind i krigen med Irak i 2003 – følger de lande som små lam i USA’s fodspor, når supermagten udstikker en kurs. Og løber rådvilde og forvirrede rundt mellem hinanden, når supermagten ikke udstikker en kurs – som f.eks. Libyen eller flygtningekatastrofen i Mellemøsten.
For at stække Rusland – der sammen med Kina siden 2011 havde blokeret for en vestlig krig mod Syrien – opmuntrede og finansierede USA i 2013 oprøret mod den folkevalgte regering i Ukraine. Målet var at føre NATO’s grænse i den region helt frem til den russiske. Det var USA, der indledte økonomiske sanktioner mod Rusland og trak EU med ind i denne sanktionspolitik.
USA har gennem flere år forhandlet TTIP-frihandelsaftalen med EU, der åbner op for at USA kan sagsøge og få europæiske virksomheder og stater dømt ved domstole i USA. Aftalen er primært i USA’s og de største europæiske koncerners interesse, men er alligevel blevet støttet af de fleste europæiske højreorienterede og socialdemokratiske politikere. Aftalen vil give USA et instrument til at tvinge europæiske firmaer og stater til at følge USA’s politik. Den nationalstatslige beskyttelse af europæiske virksomheder ophæves, og samtidig kan USA få fjernet den europæiske beskyttelse på miljø og forbrugerområdet.
Formålet med både TPP og TTIP er ikke frihandel, men det stik modsatte: At holde Kina og andre ude, at etablere instrumenter der kan bringe koncerner uden for USA under supermagtens juridisk-økonomiske kontrol – og få fjernet lovgivning og regulering i Europa, der ellers har budt på mere miljø- og forbruger-beskyttelse end i USA. Supermagten søger at bruge politisk-juridiske magt til at kompensere for afviklingen af sin økonomiske magt.
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Krigene i Afghanistan og Irak skabte enorme ordrer til supermagtens militær-industrielle kompleks og gav grundlag for yderligere udvikling af nye våben, der kan bevare supermagtens status som verdens største våbeneksportør.”
”I byerne optrapper staten sit voldsmonopol for at bekæmpe opposition og protester. Politiets køretøjer, uddannelse og våben militariseres i stigende grad, så ’ordensmagtens’ omgang med civilbefolkningen mere og mere ligner militærets omgang med den irakiske civilbefolkning under besættelsen af Irak.

TTIP aftalen vil give USA et instrument til at tvinge europæiske firmaer og stater til at følge USA’s politik. Den nationalstatslige beskyttelse af europæiske virksomheder ophæves, og samtidig kan USA få fjernet den europæiske beskyttelse på miljø og forbrugerområdet.”

En revolutionær der var forud for sin tid

Luxemburg_1

Af Linn-Elise Øhn Mehlen

I de seneste år har der været en eksplosion af tegnede biografier. Der findes f.eks. tegneseriebøger om både Che Guevara og Malcolm X og indtil flere om Karl Marx. Fra dem skiller Red Rosa sig ud gennem den vægt som dens skaber, Kate Evans, lægger på vægten af at være historisk korrekt.

Mange af tegneseriens teksafsnit og replikker er faktisk citater – selv om sproget er moderniseret – som stammer fra skriftlige kilder. Bogen er også forsynet med et omfattende noteapparat og kildehenvisninger. Det er et godt udgangspunkt for skildringen af det omfattende og dramatiske liv, som Rosa Luxemburgs faktisk var. Bogen er derfor både en spændende historie og en modig kvindes rolle i den revolutionære bevægelses ungdomsår, og samtidig en slags studiekreds.

Historien begynder med Rosa Luxemburgs fødsel i den daværende russiske sattelitstat Polen i 1871. Evans introducerer en trodsig lille pige, fuld af oprørsånd og virkelyst. Allerede som ung oplever hun modgang fra sine omgivelsers side og bliver diskrimineret, både fordi hun er pige, og fordi hun er jøde. Alligevel bliver det hurtigt klart at Rosa er et intellektuelt talent af de sjældne. Ønsket om at studere får hende til at flytte til Schweiz i 1889, for at gå på universitetet i Zürich, det eneste universitet på hendes tid der tillod kvindelige studenter. Her studerer hun filosofi, politik, historie og økonomi, og vokser endnu mere i sin socialistiske overbevisning.

Forud for sin tid

Jeg må indrømmet at jeg ikke havde læst ret meget af Rosa Luxemburg tidligere. Derfor var det interessant at stifte nærmere bekendskab med hendes politiske teorier. Et at hendes iøjnefaldende træk er, hvordan hun på så mange områder er forud for sin tid. Evans bruger meget plads på at forklare Luxemburgs politiske arbejder, hendes videreudvikling af Marx’ teori om kapitalakkumulation (som Lenin åbenbart har stjålet meget fra) og hendes syn på kapitalismen. Jeg ville gerne have læst lidt mere om debatten mellem Luxemburg og Bernstein, og Luxemburgs kritik af revisionismen. Disse problemer fylder forholdsvis lidt i bogen.

Evans lægger også vægt på hvordan Luxemburg forudser den økonomiske globalisering og det militær-industrielle kompleks, længe før disse begreber var opstået. I de dele af bogen der fungerer som teoretiske udredninger, kunne Evans med fordel have udnyttet tegneseriemediet bedre, og brugt flere visuelle virkemidler i stedet for tekst.

Demokratisk revolutionær

Et centralt tema i hele historien er forholdet mellem revolutionære og reformister, mellem socialdemokratiet og kommunisterne, og det blev endnu vigtigere efter at Luxemburg flyttede til Tyskland i 1898. Hun er og bliver en standhaftig revolutionær og mener at revolution er en forudsætning for at frigøre arbejderklassen og alle samfundets minoriteter. Gang på gang bliver hun skuffet over kollegerne i det tyske socialdemokrati (SPD). Hun mener at de hele tiden ligger på knæ for magten og optræder defensivt. Det endelige svigt kommer da SPD i 1914 i den tyske rigsdag gav sin tilslutning til kejser Wilhelms krigsplaner.

På den anden side er Luxemburg tidligt ude med at kritisere bolsjevikkerne for deres antidemokratiske fejl og mangler, så som etpartisystemet og den manglende pressefrihed. ”Frihed kun for regeringstilhængerne, kun for medlemmer af et parti – selv om de er aldrig så mange – er ingen frihed. Frihed er altid frihed for dem, der tænker anderledes”. Denne kritiske tradition er heldigvis blevet stærkere siden Luxemburgs tid og er blevet den dominerende på den revolutionære venstrefløj i vores dage.

Det er modsætningen mellem socialdemokratiet og kommunismen der bliver Luxemburgs skæbne. Efter at krigsmodstanden inden for SPD vokser og partiet splittes, stifter Luxemburg sammen med blandt andet Karl Liebknecht Spartakusforbundet, som i 1918 bliver til det tyske kommunistparti. Under Spartakusoprøret året efter må Luxemburg være vidne til at SPD ved præsident Friederich Ebert sender frikorps-militsen mod de strejkende arbejdere og knuser oprøret med brutalt magtmisbrug. Frikorpset arresterer Luxemburg, Liebknecht og andre oprørere. Luxemburg bliver skudt og liget kastet ned i en af Berlins kanaler.

Luxemburg_3

 Ikke stor kunst

Selv om bogen til tider fremstår som en tegnet studiekreds, er der også plads til personligt drama og romantik. Det er let at få øje på Evans sympati for Luxemburg når hun beskriver hvordan forholdet til Leo Jogisches ebber ud og han truer med at dræbe hende. Historien er også krydret med små øjebliksbilleder, som når Rosa triumferende fremviser sidse opfindelse fra Paris, bh’en, og erklærer at kvinderne er frigjort fra de snærende korsetter. Det er med til at understrege at bogen faktisk er en biografi, selv om den er tegnet.

Evans streg er forholdsvis enkel og ikke særlig imponerende. Dette er ikke stor tegneseriekunst. Men som et kneb til at gøre Luxemburgs livshistorie og vigtigste politiske bidrag mere tilgængelige, fungerer den fortræffeligt. Bogen er absolut læseværdig og det tager ikke mere end en aften at pløje sig igennem. Kate Evans har lavet en spændende, lærerig og anderledes biografi om en usandsynlig initiativrig og modig kvinde, som i løbet af sit korte liv tit befandt sig i centrum af historien.

Oversat af Stig Hegn efter: Tidsskriftet Rødt. 2016:1, side 93-94.

Perspektiv 2

– ny socialistisk litteratur og hjemmesider.

I samarbejde med Rødt! og Tore Linné Eriksen Brug dit netværk!

KurdiskeKvinder

Links : International journal of socialist renewal http://links.org.au Links er et australsk initiativ der udspringer af ønsket om at formidle nyheder og analyser inden for den marxistisk tradition, ikke mindst med tanke på udviklingen af en socialisme der bryder med den stalinistiske tradition. Inden for denne ramme er hjemmesiden åben for forskellige synspunkter. Det er ikke i første række et teoretisk tidsskrift, men et mødested for formidling af aktivisme og politisk kamp overalt på kloden. Der var i sin tid mange artikler om ‘bolivarismen’ i Venezuela og en kritisk gennemgang af højrefløjen i Ukraine. Der har været interview med den græske Syriza-leder Alexis Tsripas. Sidste nummer har en mindeartikel om den franske trotskist Daniel Bensaid og Ruken Isik har en artikel om de kurdiske kvinder i Rojava Kurdistan, plus Karlos Zurutuzas interview med kurderlederen Salih Muslim Muhammad. En søsterpublikation er ugemagasinet Green Left Weekly – www.greenleft.org.au

International Socialist Review : ISR www.isreview.org

ISR er både et papirmagasin og en internetpublikation, som kommer med fire fyldige numre om året. Det er en del af den internationale IS-tradition og har til opgave at udvikle socialistisk teori og praksis både i USA og internationalt. Nr. 91 indeholdt grundige artikler om venstrefløjens problemer i Grækenland og om kønsbaseret vold i nyliberalismens tidsalder. Der er også et spændende interview med Victor Toro i forbindelse med markeringen af 40-årsdagen for det imperialistiske kup i Chile. Nyeste nummer hedder 100 og her har Antonis Davanellos, medlem af International Workers’ Left (DEA), nogle refleksioner omkring Syriza, mens Ashkey Smith gør sig overvejelser omkring imperialismens aktuelle tilstand i The asymmetric world order. ISR har også en fyldig afdeling med boganmeldelser.

Third World Network : TWN www.twn.my

Det er en af de vigtigste hjemmesider når det drejer sig om aktuelle kommentarer og rapporter set fra et antimiperialistisk nord-syd perspektiv, med basis i både organisationer og centrale enkeltpersoner. TWN er et internationalt netværk (med hovedsekretariat i Penang, Malaysia) for udvikling i forbindelse med Nord-syd problematikken der bliver dækket bredt, men der er særlig vægt på handel/WTO, UNCTAD/FN-systemet, klima, landbrug, bæredygtig udvikling, sundhed. Der er en daglig opdatering af nyheds- og kommentartjenesten som er organiseret tematisk, hertil kommer at enkelte rapporter og længere analyser ligger online. TWN følger de internationale klima- og handelsforhandlinger tæt. Særlig grund er der til at anbefale netmagsinet Third World Resurgence, der kommer seks gange om året og som tit er på omkring 60 sider med et hovedtema, bl.a. hedder sidste nummer The Paris Agreement: A small step towards averting climate disaster. TWN udgiver flere magasiner.

Marx, marxisme og marxistisk historie

Karl Marx : a nineteenth century life er en omfangsrig biografi om Karl Marx, skrevet af en historiker der er kendt både for oversigtsværker om Europa i 1800-tallet, enkeltstudier om 1848-revolutionen og om tysk radikalisme i Rhinområdet i århundredets midte. Sperbers anliggende er at fortælle om Marx’ liv som historisk person i sin samtid, d.v.s. . at han ikke interesserer sig for ideernes betydning for eftertiden og de forskellige retninger som i dag forbindes med Marx’ navn. Inden for denne ramme byder Sperber utvivlsomt på en stor rigdom af detaljer og undertiden også en dyb indsigt, og han bygger på et usædvanligt omfattende kildemateriale.

Derfor er det meget spændende at læse om både de unge år, de forskellige faser af forfatteraktiviteten, forholdet til Engels, privatlivet, økonomiske problemer til kanten af afgrunden, journalistisk kommentarvirksomhed og et politisk arbejder der tit var op ad bakke.

Her er altså meget stof der selvfølgelig også er kontroversielt stof, som mangler i andre biografier. Det vil mange have nytte og glæde af at læse. Men denne bog er så afgjort ikke for de der vil forstå, hvorfor Marx stadig har betydning og hvorfor man bør læse ham i dag. Sperber har meget at fortælle lå til grund for Marx’ analyse af præcis den udgave af kapitalismen i 1800-tallet og de samfundsmæssige forudsætninger for de modsætninger der var til stede, ikke mindst i England. Men han er samtidig af den opfattelse af samfundsændringerne i løbet af de 150 år der er gået, er så store, at den aktuelle relevans – for ikke at tale om den profetiske værdi – snarere er lille. Heldigvis mangler det ikke på gode alternativer for de der ikke deler dette synspunkt.

Fra neandertalere til nyliberalister

A marxist history of the world from neanderthals to neoliberals. Mens Sperbers ovennævnte biografi altså nærer en beskeden tillid til anvendeligheden af marxistiske analyser i vore dage, får man en frugtbar vurdering af marxistisk tilgang til forståelsen af historien hos Neil Faulkner. Han er historiker ved universitetet i Bristol, og er som udgangspunkt ekspert i antikkens historie. Han har i længere tid skrevet historier om verdenshistoriske emner for hjemmesiden www.counterfire.org, hvor man stadig kan finde hans bidrag til aktuelle emner.

Det er ensbetydende med at han tilstræber en form der er tilgængelig for en bred kreds af læsere, uden unødvendig fagjargon og fodnoter. Det er med denne baggrund at han har bearbejdet et stort stof til en sammenhængende bog, med de samme kvaliteter som netartiklerne og med – bogstaveligt talt – en rød tråd. Det vil nu egentlig sige at der er tale om flere tråde eller drivkræfter, som fremstillingen koncentrerer sig om. De vigtigste er teknologi (produktivkræfter), rivalisering (mellem elite, magthavere og stater) og klassekamp. Inden for denne ramme er det utroligt hvad Faulkner klarer at overkomme, uden at man som læser bliver overvældet eller kører i grøften.

Forfatteren fremhæver særpræget ved de vigtigste perioder og det der kan forklare overgangen mellem dem, helt fra dengang de første menneskelignende væsener rejste sig på to ben og frem til den globale kapitalismes aktuelle krise. Heldigvis undgår Faulkner en skematisk eller deterministisk fasehistorie. Hertil er hans sans for menneskets skaberevne, aktørernes betydning og værdien af den gode fortælling alt for stor. Han kunne måske i videre udstrækning have fremdraget stof fra andre verdensdele i de sidste århundreder, og ser man bort fra kapitlerne om antikkens historie, vil man have svært ved at hævde at det er kønsperspektivet der gennemsyrer bogen. Men det der står er tilstrækkeligt og bogen er god. Til plussiden hører også en fyldig tidslinje til slut.

Om at læse Kapitalen A companion to Marx’s Capital, bind 1-2.

BenFine0001

Skal vi bevæge os fra biografier og historiske analyser til ‘the real thing’, er der ingen vej uden om et studie af Kapitalen. Som hjælp til læsningen af et omfattende, detaljeret og – i hvert fald for mange af os – et ganske kringlet værk i flere bind, har flere skarpsindige marxister i vores tid strakt en hjælpende hånd ud. På norsk er man så heldig at kunne gå til Ben Fine og Alfredo Saad-Filhos kortfattede introduktion som kom på forlaget Rødt! i Anne Minkes gode oversættelse, Om Kapitalen av Marx.

DavidHarvey_3

For engelskkyndige er det et skridt lægere at tage, nemlig at opsøge den marxistiske geograf David Harvey der her efter årtusindskiftet har skrevet en række bøger om den nye imperialisme, nyliberalismens historie og den globale kapitalismes krise, herunder også den af Solidaritet nys udgivne Sytten modsætninger og enden på kapitalismen.I den forbindelse har han på sin hjemmeside www.davidharvey.org lagt en række forelæsninger ud, en populariseret fortælling om hvor vigtigt det er at læse Kapitalen, og hvordan man efter hans opfattelse kan gøre det. Her ligger også en ti-minutters tegnefilm hvor han forklarer den aktuelle krise på en interessant og humoristisk facon (og det siger ikke så lidt!).

Med udgangspunkt i disse forelæsninger har Harvey skrevet to ‘rejseførere’. I sig selv er det jo ikke originalt at gennemgå, forklare og formidle Marx, men Harvey foretager sig andet en bare en rejse gennem begreber som produktivkræfter, produktionsforhold, akkumulation, penge, samfundsmæssigt nødvendigt arbejde, merværdi og udbytning. Han bruger nemlig flere sider end tilsvarende introduktioner, på et forsvar mod kritikerne, og han viser med velvalgte eksempler hvad de grundlæggende kampe går ud på i dag – f.eks. når det handler om arbejdstidens længde. Det er da også nærliggende at sammenkoble Marx’ kriseforståelse med den aktuelle og dybtgående krise. Over for de postmodernistiske kritikere er han, som altid, nådesløs, og med marxistiske begreber viser han, at det først og fremmest er produktion og kapitalisme der former vores samfund og vores liv, og at fænomener som nation, køn og identitet ikke udgør en identitet, men udfylder en ramme.

Fra Marx til Walter Benjamin

On changing the world: essays in political philosophy, from Karl Marx to Walter Benjamin.David Harvey er selvsagt ikke ene om at anvende – og forny – den marxistiske tænkning i vore dage. Michael Löwy som har som har en jødisk/brasiliansk/fransk baggrund er efter manges mening en af vor tids fremmeste tænkere inden for den marxistiske tradition, og som ser det som sin særlige opgave at frigøre marxistiske teorier fra den stalinistiske spændetrøje. At han er blevet forbundet med den trotskistiske retning og har leveret tungtvejende analyser af den ‘permanente revolution’ er langt fra ensbetydende med, at han forholder sig ukritisk til Trotskij som en form for en ufejlbarlig kirkefader. Han har også et godt rygte fordi han fremhæver både den etisk-humanistiske – og ikke mindst – de økologiske aspekter ved marxismen. Gennem en lang række arbejder har han kastet nyt lys over bl.a. Walter Benjamin, Georg Lukács, Rosa Luxemburg og Antonio Gramsci.

Dette er ikke bare filosofiske retninger, i det fleste tilfælde drejer det sig om tænkere der spillede en vigtig rolle inden for sit hjemlands socialistiske/kommunistiske partier. En rød tråd hos Löwy er da også hvor afgørende klassekamp, socialistisk bevidsthed og revolutionære handlinger er, d.v.s. . at han gennemgående advarer mod teknologisk-deterministiske tilbøjeligheder, ‘produktivistisk’ fremskridtstro og forestillinger om at man kan definere historiens mål gennem veldefinerede stadier. Han gør heller ikke af vejen for at fremhæve forbindelsen mellem Marx og de latinamerikanske frigørelsesteologer, og er kendt for at lægge vægt på det revolutionære potentiale hos småbønder og jordløse landarbejdere i syd. Ikke mindst har han tilknytning til MST-bevægelsen i Brasilien.

I hvert fald er jeg ikke vidende om en bedre introduktion til Löwys usædvanlige righoldige produktion på en række sprog end denne essaysamling. Samtidig med at de enkelte kapitaler hænger sammen, kan de godt læses og fordøjes en ad gangen – det kan gøre at et undertiden krævende sprogbrug er nemmere at fordøje. Det er besværet værd!

Til sidst: Dette er en af de mange usædvanligt vigtige og spændende udgivelser fra USA-forlaget Haymarket Books, som også udmærker sig ved billigudgaver af dyre bøger som tidligere er blevet udgivet på europæiske forlag. Tjek selv nye og kommende udgivelser på www.haymarketbooks.org.

De omtalte bøger:

Jonathan Sperber: Karl Marx: a nineteenth-century life. New York/London, Liveright, 2013-14. 648 sider Neil Faulkner: A marxist historory of the world from neanderthals to neoliberals. London, Pluto, 2014. 342 sider. Ben Fine: Om Kapitalen av Marx. Af Ben Fine og Alfredo Saad-Filho. Larvik, Rødt!, 2009. 218 sider. David Harvey: A companion to Marx’s Capital bind 1-2. London, Verso, 2010-13. Bind 1-2. Michael Löwy: On changing the world: essays in political philosophy, from Karl Marx to Walter Benjamin. Chicago, Haymarket, 2013. 200 sider. Redigeret af Stig Hegn efter Tidsskriftet Rødt! (Larvik) 2014:2 side 131, og side 123-25.

viemose

Hanne Højgaard Viemose læser op af sin seneste roman Mado

Mandag den 14. Marts flyttede Solidaritets digtoplæsnings-aftener til Århus. Nærmeste bestemt Gjellerup-parkens Bibliotek. Her læste Mads Mygind, Lars Bo Nørgaard og Hanne Højgaard Viemose op af deres værker.

Og Torsdag den 7.4 arrangerede Solidaritet sammen med digtere I Herfra hvor jeg Står” endnu en oplæsning. Denne gang med: Lotus Gregers, Morten Pape, Hanne Højgaard Viemose, Victor Ovesen og Mads Gram Næste arrangement bliver I maj måned I København. Følg med på Solidaritets hjemmeside eller på Facebook: Herfra hvor jeg står

ARBEJDERHISTORIEFESTIVAL 2016 – ARBEJDERMUSEET 21. MAJ 2016

PROGRAM

Kl. 09.00 – 10.00: Morgenkaffe og Proletarisk Morgensang – syng med Janne Lærkedahl

Kl. 10.00 – 10.20: Overrækkelse af Arbejderhistorieprisen 2016,

Kl. 10.20 – 12.00: Festival-debatten: Vækst, klima og venstrefløjen: Nanna Højlund (næstformand, LO), Pelle Dragsted (MF, Enhedslisten), Jørgen Steen Nielsen, (klimajournalist og forfatter, Dagbladet Information), Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil (MF, Socialdemokraterne)

Kl. 12.00 – 16.00: 20 foredrag (se nedenfor om de enkelte emner og foredragsholdere)

Kl. 16.00 – 17.00: Historisk begivenhed i kontrafaktisk belysning

FOREDRAGSOVERSIGT

*LO’s fejlslagne kampagne for Økonomisk Demokrati (ØD)

Indledere: Jonas Toubøl, ph.d.-stipendiat

*Det store håb der brast

Indleder: Søren Kolstrup, cand. mag, lektor emeritus

*Det kæmpende Danmarks radiostudie

Indleder: Morten Thing, dr. phil. emeritus

*Danske tysklandsarbejdere i Auschwitz 1943-45

Indledere: Olaf Erichsen, stud. hist, Marius Hansen, cand. mag og Therkel Stræde, lektor

*Brødrene Nielsen i kamp mod fascismen

Indleder: Albert Scherfig og Charlie Krautwald

*Arbejderbevægelsen og børnehaven.

Indleder: Anette Eklund Hansen, cand. mag, redaktør af tidsskriftet Arbejderhistorie

*Elevoprør og studenteroprør i Danmark

Indleder: Knud Holt Nielsen, historiker, ph.d.

*Kampen om Københavns arbejdere

Indleder: Martin Colerick, cand. mag. og Ask Holm, cand. mag.

*Tjenestepigernes kamp

Indleder: Dorthe Chakravarty, cand. mag i historie

*Mellem kors og klasse

Indleder: Lars Schädler Andersen, lektor i historie

*Kampen om den danske fagbevægelses sjæl

Indleder: Dino Knudsen, ph.d, forfatter

*Fra kald til lønarbejde.

Indleder: Nete Balslev Wingender, ph.d

*Bajere og solidaritet: Fodbold som arbejdersport

Indleder: Svend Rybner, historiker og journalist

*Talekor mellem to verdenskrige

Indleder: Astrid Orsleff Hansen

*Kold krig i køkkenet

Indleder: Iben Vyff, museumsinspektør

*Organisere, det kan de sgu, de kommunister!

Indleder: Katrine Madsbjerg, cand. mag i historie og filmarkivar

*Urban Hansen: partisoldaten, der blev overborgmester

Indleder: Iben Bjørnsson, ph.d.

*Clara Zetkin

Indleder: Birgitte Possing, professor, dr. phil.

*Kuppet i Chile

Indleder: Morten Lassen, lektor i dansk og historie, forfatter

harveyomslag2web

David Harvey læseklub: 17 modsætninger og enden på kapitalisme

Bogen med samme titel kan fås hos Forlaget Solidaritet (køb her).
Læseklubben ledes af forfatter og byplanlægger Peter Schultz Jørgensen samt sociolog og geograf Rolf Czeskleba-Dupont (har skrevet introduktionen til forfatteren).
Spørgsmålet ‘Vil venstrefløjen en ende på kapitalismen?’ stilles afsluttende den 24.maj til et panel.
Med Harvey spørger vi: Hvad gør kapitalen ved kapitalismen – og hvad gør vi ved begge dele? David Harvey kalder bogen for sin farligste – hvad skal vi forstå ved det?

PROGRAM
Onsdage fra 16.marts kl.17.00-19.00
[Der læses ca. 45 sider til hver gang (2 kapitler); deltagerne prioriterer spørgsmål og debat] 16.3. Brugsværdi og bytteværdi; Arbejde og penge
23.3. Privatejendom og staten; Fællederne og privatisering
30.3. Kapital og arbejde; Kapital som proces eller ting
6.4. Produktion og realisering; vækst uden arbejdspladser
Gæst: Økonom Carl-Aage Jensen, klummeskribent i Arbejderen
13.4. Arbejdsdelinger; Konkurrence og (de-)centralisering
20.4. Geografisk ulighed og rummets produktion; Social-økonomisk ulighed
Gæst: M.A. i statskundskab Maria Brendler-Lindkvist/Internationalt Forum
27.4. Samfundsmæssig reproduktion; Frihed og dominans
4.5. Renters rente vækst; Kapital og natur
11.5. Universel fremmedgørelse; Revolutionær humanisme; 17 principper for politisk praksis
Gæst: Geograf Tom T. Kristensen, Grækenlandsspecialist (se Det Ny Clarté #29)

Møderækken afsluttes med Åbent debatmøde
Københavns Hovedbibliotek, Krystalgade 15, den 24.maj 2016, kl.17-19.
VIL VENSTREFLØJEN EN ENDE PÅ KAPITALISMEN?
Med KP, SF og Enhedslisten
Litteraturformidler Suzan Erdogan Borglind Z09f@kff.kk.dk eller info@grobund.nu
Se en linkoversigt om David Harveys forfatterskab her på modkraft.dk
Link: https://bibliotek.kk.dk/nyheder/laeseklubber/david-harvey-laeseklub-17-modsaetninger-og-kapitalismens-ende

Cirkulær økonomi kontra kapitalens kredsløb

Cirkulær økonomi bliver hurtigt afsporet i et økonomisk system, hvor profit og vækst er i højsædet.

Af Finn Kjeller Johansen

»Cirkulær økonomi« kan øge Danmarks BNP med op til 1,4 % om året, hævder Ellen MacArthur Foundation i en rapport, som lokker virksomhedsejere og politikere med mange forretningsmuligheder og »solid rentabilitet«.
Ind med nye, smarte teknologier og nye forretningsmodeller – og så er vi klar til fortsat vækst i omsætning og overskud! Eller hvad? Kritikere mener, at cirkulær økonomi har sine begrænsninger og begrænses af grundlæggende mekanismer i den kapitalistiske økonomi.
»Miljøtekniske tiltag har hidtil ikke været i stand til at opnå den grad af absolut afkobling, der er nødvendig for at opretholde det nuværende økonomiske system. De nuværende forventninger til dematerialisering, genanvendelse og lukning af kredsløb bør dæmpes i lyset af, at disse tekniske principper har været til stede i meget lang tid, og at deres miljømæssige gevinster er blevet overhalet af den økonomiske vækst,« skriver Crelis F. Rammelt fra University of New South Wales, Australien, og Phillip Crisp fra University of Amsterdam.

Materialekredsløb
En af forudsætningerne for den »cirkulære økonomi« er »vugge til vugge«-princippet om, at man lukker materialekredsløbene.
Det er påvist at der i tekniske stoffers kredsløb, er væsentlige tekniske og fysiske forhindringer for fuld genanvendelse. F.eks. er det ofte vanskeligt eller umuligt at indvinde materialer fra industriprodukter, og genanvendelse kræver i sig selv energi og materialer: indsamling, transport, adskillelse, nedbrydning og forarbejdning.
Det andet kredsløb i den »cirkulære økonomi« omfatter de »biologiske næringsstoffer«. Men det er afhængigt af store mængder plantematerialer, så industriproduktionen vil lægge beslag på en voksende del af det naturlige systems lagre og strømme, advarer Rammelt og Crisp.
»Dette vil sandsynligvis forværre landbrugets indvirkninger på biodiversiteten, jordbundskvaliteten og drikkevandet. Det vil også føje en tredje rival til den allerede heftige “fødevarer eller brændstof”-konkurrence om landbrugsressourcerne.«

Kapitalens cirkulation
Mulighederne for cirkulær økonomi begrænses ikke kun af fysiske love. Der er f.eks. ingen fysisk lov, der forhindrer virksomhederne i at tage hensyn til de økologiske grænser. Men til trods for mange års snak om grøn vækst og virksomhedernes sociale ansvar er det kun en lille andel af dem, der direkte anvender økologiske grænser til at fastsætte mål for ressourceforbrug m.m.: 31 ud af 12.000 virksomheder i en undersøgelse publiceret af fem danske forskere i Journal of Cleaner Production (Information 3.2.2016).
Det er imidlertid ikke overraskende, hvis man ser på det økonomiske kredsløb, der er styrende for kapitalismen.
Skematisk fortalt starter kapitalen som en sum penge, hvormed kapitalisten køber produktionsmidler (udstyr, råstoffer, energi osv.) og arbejdskraft. Med den produktive kapital af en vis værdi sker en produktion af varer, hvis værdi er større. Ved at sælge varerne realiserer kapitalisten merværdien som profit. Profitten kan bruges til køb af ekstra produktionsmidler og arbejdskraft. Det betyder, at der kan akkumuleres mere kapital for hver omgang.
Faktisk er den enkelte kapitalist nødt til hele tiden at opnå en vis profit og akkumulere kapital for ikke at blive slået ud i konkurrencen med de andre kapitalister.
I dette kredsløb bliver produktionens omkostninger for miljø, klima og natur såvel som for ansatte, forbrugere og lokalbefolkning til noget ydre – såkaldte »eksternaliteter«, som den enkelte virksomhed ikke behøver at kalkulere med, medmindre den bliver tvunget til det. Konkurrencen mellem private virksomheder betyder desuden, at det ikke på forhånd koordineres, hvad og hvor meget der skal investeres i at producere.

Vækst æder effektivitetsgevinster
Virksomhedsejere har dog en vis interesse i at bruge ressourcerne mere effektivt.
»Kapitalisten må hele tiden søge efter tekniske metoder til at sænke sine udgifter til råstoffer, energi og ikke mindst arbejdskraft ved at øge den mængde, der produceres per arbejdstime, dvs. produktiviteten. Gennem konkurrencen med de andre enkeltkapitalister udfoldes den kapitalistiske produktions dybe tendens: tendensen til grænseløs vækst og udvikling i produktionen alene ud fra profitkriteriet.«
Problemet er altså, at effektiviseringen har tendens til at blive overhalet af væksten. Selvom ressourceanvendelsen effektiviseres, betyder væksten, at ressourceforbruget i den samlede økonomi øges. F.eks. skete der globalt en 11 % reduktion i materialeforbruget per BNP-enhed fra 1990 til 2009, men samtidig steg materialeforbruget med 60 %.
En af årsagerne til denne vækst i ressourceforbruget er den såkaldte rekyleffekt: Øget effektivitet giver lavere omkostninger, men på markedsbetingelser betyder det, at der frigøres midler, som udløser øget forbrug.

Holdbarhed eller akkumulation
En anden måde, den kapitalistiske virksomhed kan øge akkumulationen på, er ved at få kapitalen til at rotere hurtigere. Gennem planlagt forældelse sikrer man således, at forbrugeren hyppigere er nødt til at købe et nyt produkt i stedet for det, der er blevet ubrugeligt eller umoderne. Afsætningen til de stadig »mættere« forbrugere sikrer man ved at bruge enorme ressourcer på reklame og markedsføring, design og indpakning.
Disse mekanismer må siges at være en formidabel udfordring for at udbrede en cirkulær økonomi uden at antaste markedskræfterne. Cirkulær økonomi handler jo blandt andet om at holde produkter længst muligt i gang som produkter, før de skal genfremstilles eller splittes ad.
»Hvis vugge til vugge skulle vinde frem, er det sandsynligt, at disse kommercielle kræfter vil frembringe produkter bestående af genanvendelige eller biologiske materialer med meget kort levetid,« skriver Rammelt og Crisp. For som en leder af Desso, førende europæisk tæppeproducent, har udtrykt det: »Cradle to Cradle® gør forældelse til noget godt, det gør forbrug til noget godt.«
Desso og andre tæppeproducenter er gået i spidsen for at sælge produkt-tjenester (gulvbeklædning) frem for produkter (tæpper). Det gør det lettere at få genanvendt materialer, men modellen har ifølge Rammelt og Crisp sine begrænsninger:
»Også produkt-tjenester hviler på et biofysisk grundlag for at blive produceret, brugt og erstattet. I en vækstøkonomi vil produkt-tjenester også føre til voksende gennemstrømning, som også i sidste ende vil ramme en eller anden grænse.«

Global fast fashion
Det kapitalistiske kredsløb, der tærer på Jordens ressourcer, er blevet accelereret af globaliseringen. Som den økologiske økonom Inge Røpke har sagt:
»En dansk produktion, der starter med import af sojafoder fra Sydamerika og ender med grise, der eksporteres til Japan, kan næppe forenes med ambitionen om lukkede stofkredsløb.« (Information, 20.11.2015)
Ved at flytte produktionen til lavtlønslande har f.eks. tøjfirmaer som Hennes & Mauritz etableret et nyt forbrugsmønster baseret på lave priser. Før i tiden fulgte tøjbutikkernes sæsoner årstiderne. Med »fast fashion« kommer der mange »sæsoner« eller kollektioner hvert år. Det forhindrer dog ikke H&M i at være en af partnerne for cirkulær økonomi-organisationen Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Elektronik i alting
Som sagt lover den kapitalistiske udgave af cirkulær økonomi fortsat vækst. Højteknologisk vækst.
To af Ellen MacArthur Foundations andre partnere er allerede i gang: Philips og Cisco har sammen lanceret fremtidens kontorlampe. Hver lampe skal nu have en lille indbygget computer, der overvåger rummet med tre sensorer, er forbundet med en central server og kommunikerer med mobiltelefoner ved at blinke.
»Internet of Things« med RFID-chips og sensorer indbygget i alting er et af de »teknologiske fremskridt, der skaber stadig større muligheder for at understøtte cirkulære økonomiske forretningsmodeller«, fortæller Ellen MacArthur Foundation i sin rapport til beslutningstagere. Her prises eksplosionen i internet-forbundne ting, hvis antal forventes at stige til over 40 mia. i 2020. »I fremtiden vil alt sandsynligvis være forbundet, fra containerskibe og bygninger til nåle, bøger, køer, penne, træer og sko.«
Således satser denne vækstorienterede, systembevarende form for »cirkulær økonomi« på nye bølger af elektroniske produkter, som selv Wired Magazine har advaret om (5.6.2014):
»At fremstille alle disse dimser indebærer et forbrug af både energi og råstoffer. I mange tilfælde vil de erstatte en ældre type af enheder, som vil skulle bortskaffes – farvel, uintelligente termostat.«

Six Theses on Saving the Planet:

Next System Report by Richard Smith

[Institute for Policy Research and Development, UK]

(Draft: February 25, 2016)
From the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, workers, trade unionists, radicals, and socialists have fought against the worst depredations of capitalist development: intensifying exploitation, increasing social polarization, persistent racism, sexism, deteriorating workplace health and safety conditions, environmental ravages, and relentless efforts to suppress democratic political gains under the iron heel of capital. Yet even as we fight to hold onto the few gains we’ve made, today, the engine of global capitalist development has thrown up a new and unprecedented threat, an existential threat to our very survival as a species. For the engine of economic development that has brought unprecedented material gains and revolutionized human life, now threatens to develop us to death, to drive us over the cliff to extinction along with numberless other species. Excepting the threat of nuclear war, the runaway locomotive of capitalist development is the greatest peril humanity has ever faced. This essay addresses this threat and contends that there is no possible solution to our existential crisis within the framework of any conceivable capitalism. It suggests that, impossible as this may seem at present, only a revolutionary overthrow of the existing social order, and the institution of a global eco-socialist democracy, has a chance of preventing global ecological collapse and perhaps even our own extinction. By “global eco-socialist democracy” I mean a world economy composed of communities and nations of self-governing associated producer-consumers, co-operatively managing their mostly-planned, mostly publicly-owned and globally-co-ordinated economies in the interests of the common good and future needs of humanity while leaving aside ample resources for the other species with which we share this small blue planet to live out their lives to the full.

Racing to extinction

There’s a scene early on in Stanley Kramer’s great post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama On the Beach (1959) where young men are hurtling their race cars around a course at faster and faster speeds seemingly oblivious to danger. Indeed, as one by one they crash and burn, the others just race on by determined, apparently, to commit suicide by crashing their cars at top speed. Why? Because in Kramer’s film, set in Australia, thermonuclear war has just obliterated the northern hemisphere. Clouds of nuclear radiation are drifting toward the southern hemisphere and soon radioactive fallout will rain down on Australia, dooming that population as well. The government is handing out suicide pills. So what the hell. If you’re going to die, why not die doing something you enjoy instead of slowly succumbing to radiation poisoning?

To a stranger from another world, looking down on Earth today, our own situation might appear not so different. Despite ever-more-alarming reports by our top climate scientists, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), by credible authorities including the World Bank, major insurers and others, all of whom have told us in no uncertain terms that if we don’t radically and immediately start cutting greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures could soar by four or even six degrees Celsius by the end of this century. That would precipitate global ecological collapse and the collapse of civilization: THE END. Nevertheless, we seem inexplicably hell-bent on racing to collective suicide, cooking the planet, and wiping out the ecological bases of human life on Earth.

It’s not that we don’t know what we have to do to save ourselves: a recent poll of forty countries found that large majorities of their peoples supported placing limits on greenhouse gases–69 percent in the U.S., 71 percent in China. And it’s not that we lack the technical means to apply the brake on the race to collapse. We don’t need any technical miracles. Mostly what we have to do is just stop doing what we’re doing. And yet:

• Instead of suppressing fossil fuel production, producers are frantically pumping oil and gas from one end of the earth to the other. They are opening new fields and inventing new technologies to revive old fields, even as the world is glutted with oil, and prices have fallen to their lowest level in decades. Coal production is still climbing, not only in China and India, but even in self-styled “green” Germany.

• Instead of minimizing fossil fuel consumption, consumers seem bent on maximizing consumption: Global auto production is at an all-time high and the world auto fleet surpassed one billion in 2014. In the U.S., cheap fuel has only encouraged people to drive more, consume more gasoline and spend their fuel savings on obese and overaccessorized gas-hog luxury trucks and SUVs that get

• worse mileage than trucks in the 1950s. We’re burning more fuel flying all over the world: As an ad for CheapOAir in the New York subway reads, “Cheap Flights Make it Easy to Say, Phuket . . . Let’s Travel.” Air travel is now the fastest-growing source of global CO2 emissions. We’re burning more fuels, especially coal, generating electricity to power the iPhones, iPads, electric cars, and the Internet of Things. As temperatures rise, we’re burning still more fuel to cool off. Globally, we now consume more fossil fuel to run air conditioners than to heat our homes. Scientists recently warned that on present trends, before the end of the century, the Middle East “could be hit by waves of heat and humidity so severe that simply being outside for several hours could threaten human life.” That’s great news for Carrier and Friedrich, at least in the near term, but do we really want our children to burn up in some kind of planetary auto-da-fé?

• Instead of responsibly imposing firm limits to emissions, governments carry on in denial just like their peoples: Since the Rio Summit in 1992, every annual Conference of the Parties (COP) has ended in acrimony and abject failure to adopt binding limits on CO2 emissions. As George Bush Sr. notoriously put it in rejecting binding limits in his day: “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.” And, if the Americans, cumulatively the biggest polluters by far, won’t accept binding limits, why should anyone else? Today we face the prospects of emissions soaring to ever-higher levels and global temperatures breaking new records year after year, with 2015 smashing last year’s record in the single biggest temperature increase in history. And yet, Paris COP21 copped out again, by ending with soaring rhetoric, more promises–but all completely meaningless without legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

• What’s more, we’re not just devouring fossil fuels. We’re devouring every resource on earth, seemingly as fast as we can, with nary a thought for the needs of future generations, let alone other life forms. We seize pastures and forests, steal the fish from the mouths of seals and whales. Around the world, companies and nations are racing to plunder the last readily accessible resources on the planet and turn them all into “product.” We’re mining the Arctic for minerals and oil, strip-mining ocean bottoms for fish and more minerals, and, leveling tropical forests, from Indonesia to Congo to the Amazon, to make cheap flooring and grow biofuels to power those gas-hog GMC Sierras, Land Rovers and Mercedes Benzes. Serious people are even contemplating mining asteroids. From New York to Shanghai to Abu Dhabi, construction companies are in a nonstop, twenty-four hour, seven days a week frenzy, building airports, highways, useless vanity skyscrapers, ever-more luxurious condos and McMansions, gilded palaces and resorts finished with rare woods, exotic materials, sumptuous furnishings, climate control and more. In China’s manic Great Leap Forward, Chinese construction companies poured 6.6 gigatons of cement in just three years, building superfluous dams, highways, and “ghost cities;” whereas, American construction companies poured just 4.5 gigatons over the entire twentieth century to build all of America’s infrastructure and cities.

• Instead of inventing ways to minimize resource consumption, our smartest companies work day and night to invent superfluous “needs”: endless iThings, 3-D printers, smart watches, drones, hover boards, self-driving cars, virtual reality devices, the Internet of Things, GoPros to film your entire life, Google Glass to secretly film others, biometric shirts that track your heartbeat, toilet seats that wash your butt, pointless “apps” to waste your time, and on and on. Incessant invention of “Thneeds” in the ceaseless quest for “the next big thing.” At the end of the day, of course, these are all just new ways to unnecessarily convert more of nature into products.

• Instead of making products that we actually need to durable, long lasting, and recyclable, in order to conserve resources, top companies like Apple assign their best and brightest engineers, designers, and marketers to devising ways to make products wear out, become obsolete, and dispose faster. We consume more, faster, more often and without purpose. From fashions to furniture, cars to consumer electronics, most of our economy is geared to the production of waste: repetitive consumption by means of ever-faster cycles of designed and perceived obsolescence, with all of it ending up, eventually, in ever-bigger trash mountains. As an American retail analyst famously wrote in 1955: “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption… We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace.” As I have often said, back in Adam Smith’s day, when both factories and the human population were small, such a crazy economic logic would not have mattered; but today, when everything is produced in the millions and billions, then trashed and reproduced the next day, it matters. A lot. Giles Slade, thinking about the monuments the Egyptians left asks, after we collapse, “Will America’s pyramids be pyramids of waste?”

What’s going on here?

Why are we cooking the climate, consuming the future? Why can’t we slam on the brakes before we barrel off the cliff to collapse? In my work I’ve argued that the problem is rooted in the very nature of our economic system. Large corporations are destroying life on earth, but they can’t help themselves, they can’t change enough to save the planet. So long as we live under this system, we have little choice but to go along with destruction, to keep pouring on the gas instead of slamming on the brakes. The only alternative—impossible as this may seem—is to overthrow this global economic system and the governments of the one percent that prop it up. We should replace them with a global economic democracy, a radical bottom-up political democracy, an ecosocialist civilization. I’m going to restate my argument here in the form of six theses.

1. CAPITALISM IS OVERWHELMINGLY THE MAIN DRIVER OF PLANETARY ECOLOGICAL COLLAPSE AND IT CAN’T BE REFORMED ENOUGH TO SAVE THE HUMANS

From the dawn of settled agriculture some ten millennia ago until the rise of capitalism beginning in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, most people lived in completely or largely self-sufficient village farm communities. Peasant families grew their own food, built their own houses, fabricated most of their own crude tools, made their own clothes, and made do with animal power for farm work and transportation, and productivity was low with little real change over centuries. They produced mainly for direct use, not for market.

Agrarian ruling classes, where these existed, extracted rents but spent them on military arms and fortifications, and on conspicuous consumption, instead of investing their rents back into improving production. They didn’t need to divert their surpluses to reinvestment in production because they produced most everything they needed on their estates. Cities were small, markets and trade limited, mostly to luxury goods, such as arms. Ruling classes competed militarily not economically: they fought wars against one another to capture territory with enserfed peasants. Wealth was counted in manors, farms, and rents—not money in the bank.

Before the rise of capitalism, consumption and global population remained low and grew slowly. The planet’s human population did not likely reach one billion until the nineteenth century. Given limited and fixed technology, as populations grew, subsistence often became precarious. Peasants divided their allotments of land into smaller parcels for their children. Over centuries, agrarian societies suffered repeated cycles of slow growth to a point of dense population concentration, then collapse and famine, followed by revived growth as reduced populations found abandoned lands to farm again. Thus precapitalist economies were often characterized by cyclical crises of “underproduction.” In some cases, relentless surplus extraction combined with stagnant productivity and unscientific farm management resulted in the permanent collapse of entire civilizations–Mesopotamia, the Mayans, and others.
The transition to capitalism changed all that. From the mid-fifteenth century, English peasants were gradually cleared off the land in waves of enclosure movements and effectively proletarianized. In place of self-sufficiency, landlords and their new capitalist farmers with hired labor began specializing in single crops—like wheat, wool, or flax—that they sold on the market. Everyone sold their specialized commodity, be it wheat or labor power, and purchased their means of subsistence. This new economy, based on specialized production for the market, has shaped economic development up until today. Indeed, the rise of capitalism was virtually synonymous with economic development. Producers were not free to sell their commodity at whatever price they liked in the market because they faced competition. Hell is other pig farmers. In order to compete, farmers needed to increase the productivity of their farms. This forced them to seek cheaper inputs and labor; to bring in new technology, crop patterns, and economies of scale; and to develop the forces of production.

The tragedy of the commodity
Greater production called forth greater demand. In England, the capitalist agricultural revolution of the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries entrained the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Commercial farmers sought better tools, wool carders better machines, merchants better means of transport, and so on. In this way, competition became the “motor” of economic growth. This engine of capitalist competition gave rise to an economy of permanent change, of ceaseless technological revolution, of systematic application of science to production. The results include the cotton gin, coal power, railways, oil power, motor vehicles, medical advances, electricity, radio and TV, nuclear energy, the transistor, computers, the smartphone, GMOs, and Google Glass.
Rising productivity and advances in medicine also propelled the “demographic revolution” as the human population surged from one billion in 1800 to two billion by 1927, three billion by 1960, and so on. In place of cycles of underproduction with the ensuing collapse and famine, the capitalist mode of production has been characterized by periodic crises of “overproduction.” Booms culminate in crises and collapse and the destruction of capital and labor, followed in turn by renewed growth based on cheaper labor and capital, propelling another growth cycle. Along the way, capitalist development has profoundly transformed our lives, for better and worse. The relentlessly growing engine of economic development has become a monstrous motor of ecological destruction—strip mining the planet, leveling the last forests, exhausting the last accessible minerals, wiping out fish stocks, drowning us in pollution, and suffocating us in clouds of exhaust fumes—producing commodities we don’t really need and should not be wasting resources to create in the first place.
2. SOLUTIONS TO OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS ARE BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS AND READY AT HAND, BUT SO LONG AS WE LIVE UNDER CAPITALISM, WE CAN’T TAKE THE OBVIOUS STEPS TO PREVENT ECOLOGICAL COLLAPSE TOMORROW BECAUSE TO DO SO WOULD PRECIPITATE ECONOMIC COLLAPSE TODAY.

What to do? In my book, I noted that since the 1970s, mainstream ecological economists have tried to deal with the problem of capitalist growth in one of two ways. The first approach, inspired by Herman Daly’s idea of a “steady state economy” and Serge Latouche’s call for “degrowth,” imagined that capitalism could be reconstructed so it would stop growing, or degrow, while continuing to develop internally. The second approach, exemplified by Paul Hawken, Lester Brown, and other “sustainable development” proponents, conceived that capitalism could carry on growing more or less forever, but that this growth could be rendered benign for the environment. This approach proposes the forging of an eco-entrepreneur-led “green industrial revolution” and introduces green subsidies, carbon taxes, and penalties for polluters to bring the rest of industry on board.
Pro or antigrowth, both approaches assume that capitalism is sufficiently malleable so fundamentals can be “inverted” such that corporations can, in one way or another, be induced to subordinate profit making to “saving the earth.” And regardless of their different approaches, what unites both schools of thought is their a priori rejection of alternatives to capitalism—their rejection of any kind of economic planning or socialism. That, I argued, is where the mainstream is wrong, because there is no possible solution to our crisis within the framework of any conceivable capitalism.
Why “steady state” and “degrowth” are incompatible with a viable capitalist economy

Against well-intentioned but misguided proponents of “steady state” and “degrowth,” including Herman Daly, Tim Jackson, and others, I argued that while we certainly do need degrowth, the tendency toward growth would remain in any conceivable capitalist economy, “green” or otherwise. I noted that there are some exceptions: private, family-owned or closely-held companies which don’t have to answer to shareholders, or public utilities where profits are guaranteed. Such companies can carry on more or less in stasis, or even degrow, if they so choose. But in the U.S., most companies are investor-owned corporations, owned by mutual funds, investment banks, pension funds, and so on. For them, growth is an inescapable requirement of day-to-day reproduction.

Why? First, producers are dependent upon the market. They have to sell their commodities to buy their own means of subsistence, the means of production, and raw material inputs to stay in production. Second, competition drives economic development. Competition forces producers, on pain of market failure, to systematically cut costs, find cheaper inputs, innovate, bring in new technology, and to reinvest much of their surpluses back into production (instead of wasting it on warfare and conspicuous consumption like their feudal predecessors). Third, “grow or die” is a law of survival in the marketplace. Companies face irresistible and relentless pressure from shareholders to maximize profits. The company that fails to meet Wall Street’s expectations and regularly grow profits quarter after quarter, risks seeing its shareholders sell their stock and go elsewhere as its stock price falls. So CEOs have no choice but to constantly seek to grow sales, grow the market. Bigger is also safer because wealthier companies can better take advantage of economies of scale, dominate markets, and set market prices. In short, the growth imperative is virtually an iron law of successful capitalist competition. It is not “subjective.” It’s not optional. It is not dispensable.

Why “green capitalism” can’t save the world

Against “green capitalism” theorists and proponents, I argued that companies can’t prioritize people and planet over profits because CEOs and corporate boards are not responsible to society, they’re responsible to private shareholders. Corporations may embrace environmentalism so long as this increases profits (by, for example, recycling, reducing waste, introducing “green” products and the like). But saving the world requires more than recycling and installing LED light bulbs. It requires that the pursuit of profits be systematically subordinated to ecological concerns, and this they cannot do. No corporate board can sacrifice earnings let alone put itself out of business to save humans. As Milton Friedman wrote, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities to increase its profits.” Indeed, that’s their one and only legal obligation.

Climate scientists tell us that if we hope to contain global warming within two degrees centigrade above preindustrial levels, we are going to have to suppress fossil fuel burning by 7-10 percent per year every year from 2015 through 2050, by which time fossil fuels need to be nearly phased out. But how could we ever do this in capitalism, in an economy based on huge investor-owned corporations? Imagine Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil telling his investors, “Sorry, but to save the planet, we cannot grow profits next year and we have to cut production (and thus profits) by 7-10 percent next year and every year thereafter, for the next three and a half decades, by which time we will be basically out of business.” How long would it take your retirement fund to dump that stock? Imagine the impact cutting fossil fuel use by 7-10 percent every year for decades would have across the economy. This would rapidly bankrupt the auto industry, the aircraft and airlines industries, tourism, petrochemicals, agricultural chemicals and agribusiness, synthetic fibers, textiles, plastics of every sort, construction, and more. What company is going to commit economic suicide to save the planet? And, what unions would support degrowth, let alone massive layoffs?

And what government? Last summer, California’s eco-governor Jerry Brown and the California Senate Democrats proposed legislation to cut the state’s petroleum use by 50 percent by 2030 in line with IPCC’s target of cutting emissions by 90 percent by 2050. Great. But the oil industry hollered bloody murder. The Western States Petroleum Association said that a 50 percent mandate would mean job losses, increased fuel and electricity costs. Advertisements by the oil industry asserted “that it could lead to fuel rationing and bans on sport utility vehicles,” reported The New York Times. Facing revolt in the State Assembly, erstwhile green Governor Brown dropped the plan, sacrificing the planet to economic growth like capitalist governments everywhere.

In point of fact, the oil companies were right: If California cuts fossil fuel consumption by 50 percent, masses of workers in affected industries would have to be laid off, gasoline would have to be rationed, gas-hog SUVs and bloated pickup trucks would have to be banned, and more. Yet if we’re going to save humans, we have to do just that. At the end of the day, the only way to suppress fossil fuel consumption is to suppress fossil fuel consumption: mandate cuts, impose rationing, ban production of gas-hog vehicles, and so on.

The problem is, under capitalism, these measures would mean economic collapse and mass unemployment. On this point, the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers are right, and progrowth, promarket environmentalists are wrong: cutting greenhouse gas emissions means cutting jobs. Given capitalism, there is just no way around this conundrum. That’s why I contend that to save humans, we need a different economic system. We need a system that can enable us to radically restructure the economy, save humans and whales, and create new employment for all those excessed workers in industries we need to retrench and close down.

We all know what we have to do. It’s completely obvious. We need to radically suppress greenhouse gas emissions and production of fossil fuels, and to stop deforestation, overfishing, pillaging the planet to make products we don’t need, and dumping all manner of pollution and toxics everywhere. None of these problems require any big technological breakthroughs. As I’ve said: mostly we just have to stop doing what we’re doing. The problem is, we can’t seem to stop, or even slow down. While global warming will kill us in the long run, stopping overconsumption will kill us in the short run because it would precipitate economic collapse, mass unemployment, and starvation. This is the ultimate fatal choice of capitalism: we have to destroy our children’s tomorrow to hang on to our jobs today. Ask your average six year-old what’s wrong with this picture.

I claim that the only way to prevent overshoot and collapse is to enforce a massive economic contraction in the industrialized economies, to retrench production across a broad range of unnecessary, resource-hogging, wasteful, and polluting industries, even shutting down the worst. Corporations aren’t necessarily evil. They just can’t help themselves—they’re doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their owners. But this means that, so long as the global economy is based on capitalist private and corporate property, and competitive production for the market, we’re doomed to collective social suicide. No amount of tinkering with the market can apply the brake to the drive to global ecological collapse. We can’t shop our way to sustainability because the problems we face cannot be solved by individual choice in the marketplace. They require collective democratic control over the economy to prioritize the needs of society and the environment. And they require national and international economic planning to reorganize the economy and redeploy labor and resources to these ends. If humanity is to save itself, we have no choice but to overthrow capitalism and replace it with a democratically planned socialist economy.

3. IF CAPITALISM CAN’T HELP BUT DESTROY THE WORLD, THEN WHAT CHOICE IS THERE BUT TO SOCIALIZE MOST OF THE WORLD’S INDUSTRIAL ECONOMIES AND PLAN THEM DIRECTLY FOR THE COMMON GOOD?

For better or worse we are well into the Anthropocene. Nature doesn’t run the Earth anymore. We do. Humans are now the main drivers of climate change, land use changes, and species extinction. Our actions will determine whether our species survives beyond this century. We are, as the Buddhists say, “One People on One Planet.” If so we better start acting like it. If we want to save humans, we need to make conscious and collective decisions about how we impact nature.

Since the rise of capitalism 300 years ago, more and more of the world has come to be run on the basis of market anarchy, on Adam Smith’s maxim that every individual should just seek his/her own economic self-interest. “Look out for Number One” and the “public interest” and the “common good,” Smith said, would take care of itself. Well, that hasn’t worked out so well.

The problems we face, the problems of “planet management” can’t be solved by individual choice in the marketplace. They require conscious rational planning, international cooperation, and collective democratic control over the economy–not market anarchy. Climate scientists tell us we need a global plan to suppress fossil fuel emissions, and we need it NOW. Ocean scientists tell us we need a global Five-Year Plan to save the oceans. We need rational, comprehensive, legally binding plans to save the world’s remaining forests, to protect and restore rivers, lakes, and fisheries, to save millions of imperiled species around the globe, and to conserve natural resources of all kinds.

And we need a plan to save humans. We need to prioritize the needs of humanity, the environment, other species, and future generations. Private, self-interested corporations can’t do that. The only way to do this is with public control over planning at all levels, investment, and technological change. I don’t pretend to have a roadmap to save the world. Besides, there are plenty of economists, scientists, engineers, and others out there who are far more qualified and better placed than myself to work out the parameters and details of small-to-large-scale economic planning. Moreover, planning a world economy is hardly the task of a few people. This is going to require the creativity and input of a world of peoples. Yet we have to begin somewhere. Leaving aside for the moment the very large question of how such a planning process might actually work (see points 4 and 5 below), for what it’s worth I would suggest any rational sustainable economic planning “to do” list would have to include at least the following:

What would we have to do to save the planet?

1. We would have to radically suppress fossil fuel consumption in the industrialized nations across the economy from energy generation to transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and services. Globally, on average, electricity generation and heating account for around 25% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; industry 21%; transportation 14%; and agriculture, forestry, and other land use (mainly deforestation) 24%. This means we not only need to rapidly phase out fossil fuel-powered utilities and enforce a shift to renewables, but we also need to suppress manufacturing (by, for example, terminating production of nonessentials such as useless novelties, pointless luxuries, disposable products and destructive military products, among other things). We would have to limit construction (to, say, socially necessary essentials instead of endless luxury condo towers). We would have to cashier fossil fuel-dependent industrial agriculture and replace it with organic farming. We would have to halt deforestation worldwide and implement programs of reforestation. We would have to sharply reduce motor vehicle use, air travel (currently the two fastest growing sources of CO2 emissions), and other GHG emitting services.

If we don’t have any technical miracles to enable us to grow our economies without consuming more resources including fossil fuels, then our only option is to bring economic growth to a halt in the industrialized economies. This would mean industrial closures and retrenchments across the economy. Companies like ExxonMobil, General Motors, Boeing, Apple, Monsanto, United Airlines, and other producers of unsustainable and destructive products and services can hardly be expected to put themselves out of business and throw their workers on the streets. They would have to be nationalized or socialized, bought out or expropriated, so that they could be decommissioned, retrenched, or repurposed. Their excessed employees could be reemployed in socially beneficial, ecologically sustainable (and hopefully more personally fulfilling) lines of work. I’m fully aware that to propose what amounts to substantial deindustrialization of the northern hemisphere sounds extreme. No doubt. But global heating of four to six degrees Celsius by the end of this century is more extreme–and impossible for us to reverse. So which is it to be? We save GM and ExxonMobil for a few decades or we save humans? These are the sorts of questions we as a society need to be discussing.

2. We would have to “contract and converge” production around a globally sustainable and hopefully happy average that can provide a dignified living standard for all the world’s peoples. To effect such a balance, we would have to slam the brakes on out-of-control growth in the Global North. We would need to retrench or shut down unnecessary, resource-hogging, wasteful, polluting industries like fossil fuels, autos, aircraft and airlines, shipping, chemicals, bottled water, processed foods, pharmaceuticals, and so on. We would have to discontinue harmful processes like industrial agriculture, fishing, and logging. We would have to close down many services–the banking industry, Wall Street, the credit card, retail, PR, and advertising “industries,” built to underwrite and promote overconsumption. We would have to abolish the military-surveillance-police state industrial complex, and all its manufacturers, as this is just a total waste whose only purpose is global domination, state terrorism, destruction abroad and repression at home. We can’t build decent societies anywhere when so much of social surplus is squandered on such waste.
At the same time, we would be obliged to redirect considerable resources to ramping up sustainable development in the Global South. We in the North have a responsibility to help the South build basic infrastructure, electrification, sanitation systems, public schools, health care, and so on. We would help their citizens achieve a comfortable material standard of living without repeating all the disastrous wastes of capitalist consumerism in the North. After all, we owe them a huge debt: much of the poverty of the South is the result of decades and centuries of looting their resources by the industrializing North. If we just stop looting their resources, the South can use its natural resource wealth for its own sustainable development.

For example, China’s stupendously wasteful overproduction and overconstruction since the 1990s has been heavily and, in recent years, almost entirely dependent upon importing vast quantities of iron ore, coal, oil, lumber and other raw materials from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Australia. The result is extensive ecological destruction from New Guinea to Congo to Peru. If China were to abandon this staggering waste, Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans could use those resources for themselves instead of shipping them to China in exchange for disposable plastic junk and payoffs to dictators. If Brazil were to stop leveling its forest to produce lumber and hamburgers for overconsuming Americans and Europeans, Brazilians could grow their own food and build quality housing for themselves, instead of living on pennies in shanties. But Brazilians also need and deserve aid from the industrialized North to offset the loss of income from those exports of hamburgers and lumber. Other countries face even tougher choices. Oil revenues provide about half of Venezuelan government revenue, nearly one hundred percent of government revenue in the Oil Belt from Libya to Saudi Arabia. If we have to suppress global oil production to save humans, then entire economies are going to have to be reconstructed. These are huge challenges, no doubt. But, again, what’s the alternative?

3. We would have to revolutionize the production of the goods and services to minimize resource consumption and produce things to be durable, rebuildable, recyclable, and shareable instead of disposable. We’re seven going on nine or ten billion people on one small planet with depleted resources. We won’t survive for much longer with a global economy geared to consuming more resources per capita. We need an economy geared to minimizing resource consumption per capita, while producing enough material goods and services for all of humanity to live a comfortable if not extravagant lifestyle, with enough left over for future generations, other flora and fauna. This will require a socially and ecologically rational approach to production.

Instead of products designed to be used up, worn out, and tossed as quickly as possible, we need to produce shoes that can be re-soled, stylish but well-made and long-lasting clothes, durable and repairable appliances, and upgradeable smartphones. We need to phase out the private car in favor of shared vehicles, bicycles, and public transportation. And, we need to make basic cars that last decades and can be easily rebuilt (like those old VW Beetles). We need to erect buildings engineered to last centuries, like the old cities of Europe. We need to discontinue harmful processes like industrial agriculture, fishing, and logging. Here again, such deindustrialization and restructuring would cashier not just factories here and there, but in some cases entire industries. This would eliminate pointless luxuries (like the luxury handbag industrial complex), wasteful disposables (“fast fashion,” iPhones 6, 7, 8), and others.

4. We need to steer investments into things society does need like renewable energy, organic farming, public transportation, public water systems, environmental remediation, public health, and quality schools. All these priorities would be commonsensical in an economy not distorted by the profit motive. Why would anyone want to waste money on bottled water if the municipal water supplies were better quality, as they used to be in New York and other American cities? Why would anyone want to waste hours slogging through vehicular traffic to get to work or to the airport, when they have the option of convenient, comfortable, clean, and efficient public transport, as in so many European cities? And so on. We have more than enough social wealth to restructure our economies along those lines. It’s just that it’s wasted on wars, subsidies to undeserving oil companies, tax giveaways to the rich, and more. Just the trillions of dollars alone that the U.S. government has thrown away on its criminal wars in the Middle East since 1991 could easily have paid for converting the entire country to renewable energy, to say nothing of the losses in lives and damage that bombing half-a-dozen countries over more than a decade has cost.

5. We need to devise a rational and systematic approach to handling and eliminating waste and toxics as far as possible. The solution to waste is obvious: stop making it. We need to: abolish production of disposable products (save for critical uses, like medical) and most packaging, bring back refillable containers, generalize mandatory composting, recycling, and so on. As for toxics, here too, we need to stop making so many chemicals, most of which are produced for trivial purposes we can do without. Some of which, like pesticides, are deliberately toxic and should be banned altogether. In general, as I discussed in my book, society should enshrine and live by the precautionary principle already elaborated by scientists, doctors, and grassroots antitoxics organizations. Groups like the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families call for safer substitutes and solutions, a phase-out of persistent bioaccumulative or highly toxic chemicals, publication of full right-to-know ingredients, participation of workers and communities in decisions on chemicals, publication of comprehensive safety data on all chemicals, and insistence on the immediate priority protection of communities and workers in the event of any threat. Again, such rational reorganization of the economy in the interests of public health requires the visible hand of planning, not the invisible hand of market anarchy.

6. If we have to shut down harmful industries then we have to provide equivalent jobs for all those displaced workers, not only because this is a moral imperative but because without guaranteed employment elsewhere, those workers can’t support the huge structural changes we need to make to save the humans.. Most environmentalists loathe mentioning the job implications that “getting off oil” really means. The reality is that, given capitalism, any retrenchment, let alone mass industrial closures would mean large-scale unemployment. That’s why the environmental movement has such difficulty talking to workers who intuitively grasp the connection. And yet, if we don’t close down masses of polluting industries, we’re doomed. I contend that the only way to deal with this contradiction is to take it head on, to concede that radical restructuring will mean massive displacement. Only an eco-socialist economy can immediately and rationally provide alternative employment for excessed workers in unsustainable polluting industries.

Furthermore, happily in my view, this is not “austerity.” This is a huge opportunity to replace alienated commodification with worthwhile, interesting, and self-fulfilling work. The truth is that the vast majority of workers in this country are employed in alienating, often dangerous, and harmful work. The transition to eco-socialism presents the opportunity to abolish all manner of idiotic jobs: banking and advertising, assembly line manufacturing, arms production, and more. Moreover, since most of our current production is preoccupied with the output of useless or harmful products, ceasing production of all this opens the way to a shortened work day and reduced work week. In other words, managed deindustrialization opens the way to the emancipation of labor instead of austerity and mass unemployment as under capitalism.

To restate my thesis: We can’t reorganize, reprioritize, and restructure the world industrial economy in a rational and sustainable manner, unless we do so directly and deliberately. An economy that is mostly planned and publicly owned can achieve this transition.

Planning can’t work?

Of course, it has been a standard shibboleth of capitalist economists, from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman, that economic planning “can’t work.” Business editors never tire of recalling the failures of Soviet central planning as proof of this thesis. I don’t buy that. Planning for whom by whom? I have argued that the failures of Stalinist planning prove nothing about the potentials of planning per se because in the Stalinist states planning was of, by, and for the party-bureaucracy. These were totalitarian states, not democracies. Central planners shut workers and everyone else completely out of the planning process, and dictated production targets and quotas from the top down. There were no ways for workers to input their knowledge and creativity to the planning process, and no incentive for them to want to do so. As Soviet workers used to say, “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.” Given these contradictions, it’s surprising if planning worked at all. Planning will only be rational and efficient when it’s in everyone’s interests, and when there are material or other rewards and costs. I don’t see why such a system can’t be structured.

Governments “can’t pick winners”?

Likewise, for years after the 2011 bankruptcy of solar startup Solyndra Corporation, bankrolled by the Obama administration, hardly a week passed that Wall Street Journal editors failed to remind their readers of this demonstrated “proof” that “government can’t pick winners.” But as I pointed out, Solyndra didn’t fail because solar is a losing technology, it failed because, ironically, capitalist Solyndra could not compete against lower-cost, state-owned, state- directed, and state-subsidized competitors in China.

Besides, since when do capitalists have a crystal ball? CEOs and corporate boards bet on “loser” technologies and products all the time. Look at the recent collapse of electric car startup Fisker Automotive and Better Place, the Israeli electric vehicle charging and battery swapping stations venture (both went bankrupt in 2013). These join a long list of misplaced private bets from Sony’s Betamax to Ford’s Edsel, Tucker Automobile to DeLorean Motor Company, and all the way back to White Star Lines Titanic and the Tulip mania. CEOs and boards not only pick losing technology and products, they also lose money for their shareholders and even drive perfectly successful companies into bankruptcy every day. Consider the misadventures of JP Morgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Enron, WorldCom, Pan American Airways, and Swissair. Who knows if Facebook or Zipcar or Tesla Motors will ever make money? Government-backed Solyndra lost $535 million. But when Jamie Dimon lost two billion for JP Morgan Chase, I don’t recall the Journal howling that capitalists “can’t pick winners.” When Enron collapsed, I don’t recall hearing any blanket condemnation of the “inevitable incompetence” of the private sector. When Royal Dutch Shell abandoned its fool’s errand Arctic drilling adventure in September 2015, conceding it picked a massive loser and wasted seven billion of shareholders’ money in the process, the Wall Street Journal blamed the government instead of Shell’s CEO.

So much for the free market’s unerring wisdom in “picking winners.” Hypocrisy is stock and trade of capitalists, lazy media, and fact-averse capitalist economists who want to make the facts fit their simpleminded model, no matter the truth. That’s why it’s entirely in character that the Wall Street Journal has never bothered to applaud government when it picked indisputable winners: when government-funded and government-directed applied research produced nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, radar, rockets, the jet engine, the transistor, the microchip, the internet, GPS, and crucial breakthroughs in biotechnology; when government scientists and industries launched the Apollo spacecraft that put men on the moon; when government- developed and produced ballistic missiles terrorized the Soviets and government-designed and operated bombers bombed the Reds in Korea and Vietnam to “contain communism” and secure American dominance of the Free World for corporate subscribers of the Wall Street Journal to exploit–where then was the cri de coeur that “government can’t pick winners?” (I certainly wouldn’t support all those inventions or their uses but there’s no doubt they were “winners” in the terms of those who ordered them produced.) And when, after an eight-year long, mind-bogglingly difficult, complex, and risky 150 million-mile journey, NASA’s government-built Curiosity space ship landed a (government-built) state of the art science lab the size of a Mini Cooper within a mile and a half of its target on the surface of Mars, and then immediately set off to explore its new neighborhood, even the Ayn-Rand-loving, government-hating Republicans in Congress were awed into silence. As David Sirota’s headline in Salon.com read on August 13, 2012 just after Curiosity set down on the red planet: “Lesson from Mars: Government works!”

Capitalist planning sure works

On the other hand, I point out that within their own enterprises, capitalists hardly dispute the potentials of rational planning at all. Just the opposite. Today, the revenues of the world’s largest corporations are bigger than many national economies. Thirty-seven of the world’s one hundred largest economic entities are corporations, the rest countries. Aside from banks, which don’t produce anything, most of the top companies are oil and auto companies. Royal Dutch Shell has revenues higher than all but twenty-five of the world’s 190 nations. Exxon, SinoPec (China), and BP are individually larger than all but the top twenty-nine nations. Large multinational companies operate in dozens of countries with hundreds of thousands of employees. Walmart has 2.2 million employees.

Consider this one: Boeing Aircraft arguably represents the pinnacle of high-tech manufacturing technology today. The 787 Dreamliner is the most technologically sophisticated, manufactured product in the world. As many as fifty big companies contribute to producing its main components–the fuselage, engine, airframe, bulkhead and tires. Subcontractors send components from Japan, Italy, Korea, Germany, China, the U.K. Sweden, France, and other countries. Airplane production is systematically planned, coordinated, tightly sequenced, and choreographed. Every minute and dollar is counted. Waste and inefficiency is fanatically rooted out. Production is rigorously precise, disciplined, and efficient. Besides production, Boeing manages crew training, maintenance, repair, and upgrading of thousands of aircrafts around the world. Then, there are offices for product development, sales, personnel and government regulation management, and more. Boeing’s ultra high tech and far-flung operations are all “centrally planned,” coordinated, and managed from its corporate head offices, as with every large company. If companies with revenues greater than the GDPs of most countries can rationally and efficiently plan their economies, why can’t nations? Why can’t we rationally plan the world industrial economy for the needs of the world’s peoples? Of course, planning a national economy and coordinating global economies is rather more difficult than planning production, sale and maintenance of airplanes. But I don’t see any technological barrier to this. Besides, we don’t have a choice. It’s plan or die. If we don’t rationally plan our major industrial economies for the needs of people and planet, if, instead, we continue to let market anarchy and profit-maximization guide our global economic life, the result will be collective human suicide.

Saving small producers

In arguing for large-scale industrial planning as the only feasible alternative to unplanned market anarchy, I am not at all saying that we should nationalize family farms, farmers’ markets, artisans, groceries, bakeries, local restaurants, repair shops, workers co-ops, and similar small businesses. Small producers aren’t destroying the world. But large-scale corporations are destroying the world. If we want to save humans, the corporations would have to be nationalized, socialized, completely reorganized. Many must be closed down, others scaled back, and still others repurposed. But I don’t see any reason why small-scale, local, independent producers cannot carry on more or less as they are, within the framework of a larger planned economy. They would have to work within the limits of what’s sustainable, obey pollution limits, and resource conservation mandates. They would also be forbidden to grow beyond reasonable, agreed upon maximum sizes. But other than that, I don’t see a problem with letting small owner-operators and co-ops remain. We don’t need to plan the entire economy and we have bigger problems to worry about.

4. RATIONAL PLANNING REQUIRES DEMOCRACY

I contend that the only way to plan the economy for the common good is if we do it ourselves, democratically. Solar or coal? Frack the planet or work our way off fossil fuels? Drench the world’s farms in toxic pesticides or return to organic agriculture? Public transportation or private cars as the mainstay? Let’s put such questions up for a vote. Shouldn’t everyone have a say in decisions that affect us all? Isn’t that the essential idea of democracy? The problem with capitalism is that the economy isn’t up for a vote, but it needs to be. Huge decisions that affect all of us, and millions of other species–even the fate of life on earth—are private decisions, made by corporate boards on behalf of self-interested investors. Polls show that 93 percent of Americans want GMO labeling on foods and 57 percent think that such foods are unsafe to eat. But they don’t get to vote on whether we get GMOs in our food or whether GMOS are labeled. Well, why not? The House of Representatives, which claims to represent and express the views of the electorate, passed a bill to prevent mandatory labeling so that food companies don’t have to disclose if GMOs are in their products. This is capitalist “democracy.” In capitalist democracies, politicians more often than not represent the interests of the companies and the rich, who fund their campaigns, bribe and gift them with fancy vacations and whatnot, instead of the wishes of the electorate who contribute little to campaign finance. This is the corruption of capitalist democracy. Polls show that 69 percent of Americans, 71 percent of Chinese, 77 percent of Nigerians, and 88 percent of Brazilians want binding limits imposed on CO2 emissions. But corporations don’t want binding limits so they bribe or browbeat “our” politicians to get what they want. What kind of democracy is this? Why don’t we get to vote on these questions? Why can’t we have national referenda on such questions? We don’t have to be experts to make such decisions. Corporate boards aren’t composed of experts. They’re composed of major investors and prominent, often politically-connected VIPs. Corporate boards decide and vote on what they want to do, then hire experts to figure out how to get it done. Why can’t society do the same, but in the interest of the common good instead of Wall Street investors?

How do we know people would vote for the common good?

We don’t. After all, people vote against their own interests in elections all the time. Yet on closer inspection it’s not so surprising, given the limited choices they’re offered in capitalist democracy. What we see is that in the abstract, people would vote their conscience on environmental issues: so 69 percent of Americans favor binding limits on CO2 emissions and 93 percent want GMO labeling. This shows, I believe, that people have pretty good instincts about the environment. But when the issue is framed as a choice between environment versus jobs and other pocketbook issues, people very often vote for the economy and against the environment. For example, in 2012 Californians voted on Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO content in foods and, if passed, California would have been the first state to require such labeling. Despite polls showing that huge majorities favored labeling, it was narrowly defeated, with pro-labeling voters garnering only 48.6 percent of the vote. Why was it defeated? Initiatives can win or lose for a variety of reasons. But in this case it is probably not irrelevant that opponents, including Monsanto, E.I. Dupont, BASF Plant Science, and other industries, outspent the pro-labeling forces by more than five to one: $46 million versus $9.2 million. The opponents spent massively on disingenuous propaganda ads claiming the bill would increase family grocery costs by as much as $400 per year. This is a common pattern with a long history. Yet even so, it was only barely defeated. The initiative process is direct democracy in action. But when corporate interests are free to spend unlimited money to influence voting, and especially when jobs or living standards are threatened, democracy is sabotaged. If we want democracy to work, we would have to have exclusively public funding of elections and referenda balloting, free and open debate on issues, and zero tolerance for Fox News and similar propaganda machines–and we need an economy in which workers in industries that need to be cashiered to save the planet are guaranteed other comparable jobs.

Planet Democracy: Creating institutions of economic democracy

We would have to establish democratic institutions to plan and manage our social economy: planning boards at local, regional, national, continental, and international levels. Those would have to include not just workers, the direct producers, but entire communities, consumers, farmers, peasants—everyone. As a rule, the more direct the democracy, the closer it reflects the will of the citizenry. And direct democracy need not be limited to local economies or issues. Many referenda can and must be national, even global, because they deal with universal, planet wide issues. We need a global vote on the very biggest questions: Should we build more coal-fired power plants or close them down and shift to renewable power? Should we abolish large gas-hog luxury cars and revive the equivalent of 1960s VW Beetles, Citroen 2CVs, and Fiat 500s to the extent that we need cars at all? Should we fish the oceans to extinction or stop this plunder and manage them sustainably? Should we cut down the Amazon forest to grow soybeans or conserve and restore it? And if we choose to preserve the forest, how will we reemploy the farmers who currently grow soy beans and cattle there? These sorts of questions need to be addressed at the global as well as local levels. We have computers and the Internet. Google’s Larry Schmidt said the entire world will be online by 2020. We have plenty of models: the Paris Commune, the Russian soviets (workers councils) of 1917-19, Poland’s Solidarity trade union in 1980-81, Brazil’s participatory planning, La Via Campesina and others. Direct democracy at the base and delegated authority with right of recall for higher level planning boards. What’s so difficult about that? Surprisingly, we even have a working example of something like a proto-socialist planning model right here in the U.S.

The example of public regulation of utilities

As Greg Palast, Jarrold Oppenheim, and Theo MacGregor described in Democracy and Regulation: How the Public Can Govern Essential Services, it is a curious and ironic fact that the United States may be the world’s leading champion of the free market, but it nonetheless possesses a large and indispensable sector of the economy that is not governed by the free market but instead, democratically, by public oversight–and that is utilities, the provision of electricity, heating fuel, water and sewerage, and local telephone service. Not only that, but these are the most efficient and cheapest utility systems in the world. The authors write:

Unique in the world (with the exception of Canada), every aspect of US regulation is wide open to the public. There are no secret meetings, no secret documents. Any and all citizens and groups are invited to take part: individuals, industrial customers, government agencies, consumer groups, trade unions, the utility itself, even its competitors. Everyone affected by the outcome has a right to make their case openly, to ask questions of government and utilities, to read all financial and operating records in detail. In public forums, with all information open to all citizens, the principles of social dialogue and transparency come to life. It is an extraordinary exercise in democracy–and it works… Another little known fact is that, despite the recent experiments with markets in electricity [the authors published this book in 2003, just three years after the Enron privatization debacle], the US holds to the strictest, most elaborate and detailed system of regulation anywhere: private utilities’ profits are capped, investments directed or vetoed by public agencies. Privately owned utilities are directed to reduce prices for the poor, fund environmentally friendly investments, protect community employment, and open themselves to physical and financial inspection… Americans, while strongly attached to private property and ownership, demand stern and exacting government control over vital utility services.
The authors are careful to note that this is “no regulatory Garden of Eden.” It has many failings: regulation is constantly under attack by promoters of market pricing, the public interest and the profit motive of investor-owned utilities often conflict with negative consequences for the public. But even so, this long-established and indisputably successful example of democratic public regulation of large-scale industries offers us a real-world practical example of something like a “proto-socialism.” I see no obvious reason something like this model of democracy and transparency could not be scaled up to encompass the entire industrial economy.
Of course, we would have to do much more than just regulate industries. We would have to completely reorganize and reprioritize the whole economy, indeed the whole global industrial economy. This means not just regulating but restructuring: retrenching and closing down resource consuming and polluting industries, shifting resources out of them, and starting up new industries. Those are huge tasks, beyond the scope of even the biggest corporations. So who else could do this but self-organized masses of citizens, the whole society acting in concert, democratically? Obviously, many issues can be decided at local levels. Others, like closing down the coal industry or repurposing the auto industry, require large-scale planning at regional, national, or international levels. Some, like global warming, ocean acidification, and deforestation, would require extensive international coordination, virtually global planning. I don’t see why that’s not doable–absent the profit motive. We have the UN Climate Convention that meets annually and is charged with regulating greenhouse gas emissions. It fails to do so every year, not because it lacks knowledge of what to do, but only because it lacks enforcement powers. We need to give it enforcement powers.
5. DEMOCRACY REQUIRES ROUGH SOCIO-ECONOMIC EQUALITY

When in the midst of the Great Depression that great “People’s Lawyer,” Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, said “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both,” he was more right than he knew. Today we have by far the greatest concentration of wealth in history. Not just the 1 percent. Worldwide, Oxfam found that just 80 individuals own as much wealth as the bottom half, 3.6 billion, of the world’s population.. So it’s hardly surprising that today we have the weakest and most corrupt democracies since the Gilded Age.

I contend that if we want a real democracy, we would have to abolish “the great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few.” That means we would have to abolish not just capitalist private property in the means of production, but also extremes of income, exorbitant salaries, accumulated wealth, great property, and inheritance. The only way to prevent the corruption of democracy is to make it impossible to materially gain, by creating a society with neither rich nor poor. If it’s illegal to be rich, then there’s little or no incentive to be corrupt. Brandeis was right: we will never have a real democracy until we establish a reasonable socioeconomic equality as the foundation. And if we can’t replace capitalism with a real economic democracy, I don’t see how we can avoid ecological collapse.

Does that mean we would all have to dress in blue Mao suits and dine in communal mess halls? Hardly. Lots of studies, notably Wilkinson and Pickett’s Spirit Level, have shown that people are happier, life is better, there’s less crime and violence, and fewer mental health problems in societies that are more equal, where income differences are small and concentrated wealth is limited. Gandhi was right in saying that “the world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.” We don’t have five planets to provide the resources for the whole world to live the kind of wasteful consumerist lifestyle that middle and upper class Americans enjoy. But we have more than enough wealth to provide every human being on the planet with safe water and sanitation, quality food, housing, public transportation, great schools and healthcare, all the authentic necessities. These should all be guaranteed as a matter of right. Indeed, most of these were already declared as such in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948:

Article 22 Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 23 (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. 
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
 (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24 Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25 (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
The promise of eco-socialism

Freeing ourselves from the toil of producing unnecessary and harmful commodities would free us to shorten the workday, to enjoy the leisure promised but never delivered by capitalism, to redefine the meaning of the standard of living to connote a way of life that is actually richer, while consuming less. In a society in which we can all easily secure our basic necessities and live comfortably, in which we are all guaranteed employment and a basic income, we can, all of us, realize our fullest potential instead of wasting our lives in mindless drudgery and shopping. Artists can do art instead of advertising. Carpenters like myself can build beautiful, substantial, and aesthetically pleasing housing for people who need it, instead of for the vanity of those who already have too much. Scientists and inventors can build a better world instead of the next iThing or killer drone. Wall Street bankers can abandon their lives of crime and find socially worthwhile work, so they no longer have to be afraid to tell their children what they do all day. We can all build a beautiful world to pass on to our children while leaving space and resources for the wonderful life forms with which we share this amazing blue planet. This is the potential of eco-socialism.

6. IMPOSSIBLE? PERHAPS, BUT WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

The “planetary emergency” we face is no joke. As Jared Diamond reminds us in his book Collapse, in the past civilizations collapsed individually whereas today we face the prospect of planet-wide ecological collapse, the collapse of civilization, and perhaps even our own extinction. What gives us an edge here is that capitalism has no solution whatsoever to this crisis. Capitalism’s answer to every problem is more of the same growth and overconsumption that has wrecked the planet and the climate in the first place. There can never be a market solution to our crisis because every “solution” has to be subordinated to maximizing growth or companies can’t stay in business. What difference does it make if Germany gets almost 30 percent of its electricity from solar and wind, when German industry uses this power to manufacture millions of global warmers, and gratuitously filthy diesels to boot. Automobiles are Germany’s leading export, the bigger the better. What does it matter if Apple powers all of its operations in China with “100 percent renewable energy” when what it manufactures in China is ecologically disastrously costly disposable products–billions of iPhones, iPads, and the rest? If Apple really wanted to save the world, it would stop producing disposable products and produce durable phones and computers that could last for decades, that could be easily rebuilt, upgraded, and be totally recyclable. But of course that would put them out of business in a hurry. This is why green capitalism can only go so far. As one-by-one all the promarket stratagems—the cap and trades, carbon taxes, the REDDs, and the “green growth” delusions of perpetual growth without perpetually growing resource consumption—are all revealed to be counterproductive or, at best, too feeble to effect the radical suppression of resource consumption and pollution we need to make, I believe people will be more open to radical alternatives.

We’re living in one of those pivotal world changing moments in history. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the most critical moment in human history. Capitalism has had a good 300-year run. But economic systems come and go, as do governments. There is no gainsaying the magnitude of the changes we are going to have to make to save ourselves. There is no doubt that closing the book on capitalism and moving on to a higher stage of civilization–eco-socialism–by replacing the culture of “possessive individualism” with a culture of sharing, community and love, is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. We may very well fail. But what other choice do we have but to try? The Australians in Stanley Kramer’s dystopian film had no alternative. They were doomed no matter what they did. But we still have a chance, indeed a huge opportunity to make a better world. Difficult as it may be to think of completely reordering our economic lives, I just cannot believe that humanity is going to commit collective eco-suicide just to save capitalism.

Klassisk og nyere marxisme

Af Tore Linné Eriksen

Bogåret 2015 har budt på mange muligheder for at forny et bekendtskab – eller et første møde – med moderne klassiske tekster inden for den marxistiske tradition. Her i starten af 2016 laver vi derfor en hurtig opremsning af engelsksprogede bøger, du med fordel kan stifte bekendtskab med.

Der har længe været rygter om den store leninbiografi af den ungarske historiker Tamas Krausz’ og den er nu tilgængelig på engelsk: Reconstructing Lenin: An intellectual biography (New York, Monthly Review Press, 2015). Krausz’ bog skiller sig ud fra rækken af tidligere heltebeskrivelser og nyere biografier der ikke har meget andet at byde på end dæmonisering og og skildringer af ’statskup’ i stedet for revolution. Oven i at han ser på Lenins analytiske bidrag (og fejltagelser), giver Krausz os også en fortættet fremstilling af en dramatisk periode, med krig, revolution og spændinger mellem forskellige strømninger, frem til diktaturets start.

2015 bød os også på en kort, pædagogisk og spændende præsentation af en anden af hovedpersonerne i det russiske revolutionsdrama. Paul Le Blanc er historieprofessor i Pennsylvania, og bag sig har han flere bøger med tema fra revolutionens indviklede historie. Årets bog er Leon Trotsky (London, Reaction Books, 2015) og den udkom i den fortræffelige serie Critical Lives, hvor Lars T. Lieh for et par år siden udgav en leninbiografi der har mange af de perspektiver som vi også finder hos Krausz. Liehs bog findes på dansk udgivet af Solidaritet. Le Blanc har en god beskrivelse af selve revolutionsforløbet og Trotskij i eksil, med vægt på hans arbejde med at advare mod fascisme og oprette en enhedsfront. Derimod er han vag og kortfattet i drøftelserne af Trotskijs svage sider: hans svigtende vilje og evne til at samle de forskellige modstandere af Stalin. Også denne bog udgives af Solidaritet – i foråret 2016. Når det drejer sig om Trotskij bør det også nævnes, at den klassiske trilogi af Isaac Deutscher er blevet samlet i et bind under titlen The prophet: The life of Leon Trotsky (London, Verso Books, 2015). Det er et omfangsrigt værk på 1650 sider (!), men det koster ikke mere end en normal digtsamling, en 200 kr.

Som supplement til Kate Evans storslåede tegneserie om Luxemburg, Red Rosa, har vi nyudgivelsen af Norman Geras’ klassiske The legacy of Rosa Luxemburg (London, Verso Books, 2015). Haymarket Books er et forlag fra Chicago der på kort tid har svunget sig op til at blive et af de centrale forlag for venstreorienteret litteratur, både vedrørende originallitteratur og nyudgivelser i paperback af bøger der tidligere har været udgivet i udgaver der har været alt for dyre for alle andre end biblioteker. Dette forlag har nu sørget for at Clara Zetkins Selected Writings (Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2015) nu er tilgængelig igen. Det er en udgave redigeret af  Philip S. Foner, en fremtrædende marxistisk historiker, og har et forord af den afroamerikanske aktivist Angela Davis. Zetkin var en tysk socialdemokrat som senere gik ind i kommunistpartiet og var bl.a. kendt for at have været med til at tage initiativ til 8. marts som international kvindedag. Bogen indeholder taler og artikler om klasse, køn og socialisme fra 1889-1933.

Når det drejer sig om kategorien ‘yngre klassikere’ bliver der gjort meget for at de eftertænksomme englændere fra ‘the new left’ ikke bliver glemt. Det skyldes ikke mindst at forlaget Verso Books, der er tilknyttet tidsskriftet New Left Review, søger for nyudgivelser i et fornuftigt paperback format. Et godt eksempel er Ralph Milliband, der i mange årtier leverede mange nyskabende analyser af klasser og stat i det moderne industrisamfund. Årets udgivelse af Milliband-tekster hedder Class war conservatism and other essays (London, Verso Books, 2015) med en dristig indledning af Tariq Ali. En anden central person fra dette miljø er Raymond Williams som med sin baggrund i arbejderklassen i Wales har skrevet både skøn- og faglitteratur, om kulturel materialisme, marxistisk litteraturteori, medier, økologi og socialistisk strategi. En fin indfaldsvinkel til ham finder man i en samtalebog på 450 sider (!), Politics and letters (London, Verso Books, 2015). Den stammer oprindeligt fra 1979, og Williams bliver udsat for nærgående og lang fra ukritiske spørgsmål fra redaktionen i New Left Review (herunder Robin Blackburn og Perry Anderson).

Historikeren Victor Kiernan har både skrevet Shakespearestudier og oversat poesi fra urdu, men er mest kendt for bøger om britisk historie og imperialisme. Hans klassiske The lords of human kind: European attitude to the other cultures in the imperial age er kommet i ny udgave (London, Zed Books, 2015). Den 45 år gamle bog overgås næppe når det drejer sig om om træfsikre – og uhyre velskrevne – analyser af mødet mellem europæerne og ‘de andre’, den er en klassiker i studiet af racisme og eurocentrisme. Denne udgave indeholder også en introduktion af John Trumpbour plus en mindeartikel om Kiernan, skrevet af historikerkollegaen Eric Hobsbawn.

Og som om dette ikke er nok, genudgav Verso Books i fjor også den belgiske marxist og økonom Ernest Mandels fortræffelige Formation of the economic thought of Karl Marx: 1843 to Capital (London, Verso Books, 2015).

Oversat og lettere bearbejdet af Stig Hegn efter: Tidsskriftet Rødt. 2016:1, side 105-06.

Grundlag for Solidaritet – uafhængigt socialistisk magasin

 

  • Solidaritet er et uafhængigt socialistisk magasin. Solidaritet bringer nyheder og analyser fra Danmark og udlandet. Vi følger udviklingen og debatten på venstrefløjen både her i landet og internationalt. Vi kommer med argumenter, forslag, reportager, kommentarer og analyser fra folk, der slås for en bedre verden.
  • Solidaritet har som sinmålgruppe den brede venstrefløj, med særlig vægt på sociale bevægelser og den fagligt organiserede arbejderklasse, som ønsker og kæmper for et mere retfærdigt samfund. Solidaritet henvender sig til alle socialister, men især til medlemmer i og omkring Enhedslisten og Socialistisk Ungdomsfront (SUF).
  • Solidaritet er et magasin for folk i bevægelse. Hvor der er udbytning og undertrykkelse, vil der være modstand og kamp og opstå bevægelser – for feminisme, økologi, antiracisme, social retfærdighed og global solidaritet. Alle udfordrer de den generelle markedsgørelse af livet. Overalt deltager socialister i disse kampe.
  • Solidaritet vil give retning. Dagligdagens kampe får deres fulde kraft, når de bærer perspektivet om en socialistisk frigørelse af menneskeheden. De vil have en chance for at lykkes, hvis og når de mest bevidste og energiske aktivister forener sig, analyserer, debatterer, handler og har et internationalistisk perspektiv.
  • Solidaritet støtter Enhedslistens udvikling mod et masseparti, der på sigt kan blive det ledende parti i arbejderklassen. Denne udvikling rejser mange nye spørgsmål, som kalder på analyser ud fra en udogmatisk, revolutionær og marxistisk vinkel. Kun gennem kritisk og provokerende debat, hvor ingen er fredet på forhånd, når vi de bedste og skarpeste konklusioner.
  • Solidaritet vil være et redskab, som bidrager til at løse arbejderklassens historiske opgave: At afskaffe kapitalismen gennem en socialistisk revolution som et nødvendigt skridt på vejen mod kommunismen i ordets oprindelige betydning: Et samfund, ”hvor den enkeltes frie udvikling er betingelsen for alles frie udvikling”.