Green lifestyles are not enough…

Finally the ecological crisis is being taken seriously by capital.

How do we know?

The torrent of green lifestyle features and eco films pouring out of places like Hollywood coupled with the mainstreaming of green commodities and conusmerism.

Bluntly, this is a good thing.

If, the forces of capitalism dominate this world. As the Situationists used to say every realtionship in this society has been commodified. Given the timescale of the catastrophe we are facing a climate friendly capitalism today is an improvement and one that might make a crucial difference.

Of course green consumerism and planet friendly exploitation are no long term solution, but they might just give the rest of us enough breathing space to organise the alternative.
We know the flaws in green consumerisma and any solution within a capitalist society. I have no intention of rehashing these arguments here and now.
However, one thing we must be aare of as we champion An Inconvenient Truth, Grist.org and carboon footprint calculators is that none of this green lifestyle mentions the need for a political alternative to the ruling class.

The backing of Angela Davis for the US Greens gives us an example of where we need to position ourselves. We are winning the the awareness battle, but now we must focuss our efforts at providing a radical, grassroots political movement. The upcoming elections in London and the US give us an oppurtunity to position the Greens as the vehicle for enacting the radical change we need.

A Response to Socialist Resistance…

Liam Mac Uaid’s blog contains the following statement about the Socialist Resistance magazine. Here is my initial response:

It means a lot more than using environmental issues to have another kick at capitalism.

This is a key sentence in my opinion. Many of us are used to seeing the Left picking up ideas such as environmentalism and instead of actually engaging with their content, using them to pad out their own already existing ideaology. Some kind of real engagement is necessary and a consequent evolution of ideas and actions is what I would like to see come out of a Left / Green dialogue via ecosocialism.

Our political conclusion is:

“This new phase of capitalism forces an inevitable conclusion – only by a total transformation in politics and production, in other words a transformation of our social relations, can a sustainable future for humanity be established.”

Again, I have little real disagreement here. However, I would caution against slipping into the terminology of “phases of capitalism” for a couple of reasons. First, the predictions of the far-Left regarding the various phases etc. have tended to both be inaccurate and a stumbling block to action. Debates and disagreements of this nature are from my point of view offputting. Secondly, whilst right here, right now we can (and must) focus on capitalism we must recognise the environmental degradation caused by pre-capitalist societies and the consequences that these had.

Ecosocialism is the cross-fertilisation of ecological ideas in the Marxist left and the spread of Marxist ideas in the green movement. It is becoming more and more common for environmentalists to point at the ecological situation and attribute much human created global warming and environmental destruction to the capitalist economic model.

It should also be noted that not everyone in the ecosocialist current is moving leftwards from some kind of liberal environmentalism towards Marxism, many of us have always maintained a clear anticapitalism without necessarily adopting Marxist ideas.

At the same time some socialists have been rethinking their own assumptions about continuous growth of production as a requirement of a socialist society and many of us owe a great debt to the pioneering writings of John Bellamy Foster who has reminded us of Marxism’s contribution to ecological thinking.

This is a good step. Too often in the past in debates with the Left I’ve encounterd a manic productivism, with a caveat that a socialist socioety would automatically be better for the environment.

The transformation of politics and production we are fighting for will oblige us to replace capitalism with a society in which common ownership of the means of production has replaced capitalist ownership, and in which the preservation and restoration of ecosystems will be central to all activity. Capitalism’s need to make profits and produce destructive, wasteful useful things is not something that we will be able to modify with reforms. To do that we need a revolutionary change in the way we govern, produce, distribute and consume. From this it follows that economic and political power have to be taken away from capitalists and their politicians and put in the hands of working people and their communities.

Once again, I have nothing to disagree with here. Although, I don’t think we should underestimate capitalism’s abilty to transform limited environmentaol reform into profit. We are already seeing steps taken towards this. Capitalism may well be able to put the crisis on hold long enough to squeeze a bit more profit out of it.

Ecosocialism is much more advanced outside the rich world. That’s especially true in Latin America, where anti-imperialist governments headed by Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Raul Castro in Cuba, are pressing for strong anti-capitalist, pro-environment measures.

Whilst moves taken in these countries are certainly positive, we should remain cautious about their extent and be on guard against any strain of authoritarianism that may be present within left populism. A cautious welcome, for sure, but not cheerleading.


This new magazine has set itself the ambition of becoming the principal English language ecosocialist publication.

Will it be truely non-partisan? Many of us remember another small Trotskyist grouplet liquidising itself to produce a new voive for the movement…WRP(Workers Press) if I recall correctly folded to produce Reclaim the Future for the RTS/EF!/antiroads etc movements. Not sommething wanted by the movements themselves.

I’m cautious about anyone claiming to be the “voice” of what is still an amorphous current. Would the title change to reflect this?

Having said all of this, I like forward to seeing how your project develops and whether it fits into the grassroots, autonomous, libertarian socialism that provides the left for my “Green Left”

Situationist Theses on Traffic

by Guy-Ernest Debord


1

A mistake made by all the city planners is to consider the private automobile (and its by-products, such as the motorcycle) as essentially a means of transportation. In reality, it is the most notable material symbol of the notion of happiness that developed capitalism tends to spread throughout the society. The automobile is at the center of this general propaganda, both as supreme good of an alienated life and as essential product of the capitalist market: It is generally being said this year that American economic prosperity is soon going to depend on the success of the slogan “Two cars per family.”

2

Commuting time, as Le Corbusier rightly noted, is a surplus labor which correspondingly reduces the amount of “free” time.

3

We must replace travel as an adjunct to work with travel as a pleasure.

4

To want to redesign architecture to accord with the needs of the present massive and parasitical existence of private automobiles reflects the most unrealistic misapprehension of where the real problems lie. Instead, architecture must be transformed to accord with the whole development of the society, criticizing all the transitory values linked to obsolete forms of social relationships (in the first rank of which is the family).

5

Even if, during a transitional period, we temporarily accept a rigid division between work zones and residence zones, we must at least envisage a third sphere: that of life itself (the sphere of freedom and leisure — the essence of life). Unitary urbanism acknowledges no boundaries; it aims to form an integrated human milieu in which separations such as work/leisure or public/private will finally be dissolved. But before this is possible, the minimum action of unitary urbanism is to extend the terrain of play to all desirable constructions. This terrain will be at the level of complexity of an old city.

6

It is not a matter of opposing the automobile as an evil in itself. It is its extreme concentration in the cities that has led to the negation of its function. Urbanism should certainly not ignore the automobile, but even less should it accept it as its central theme. It should reckon on gradually phasing it out. In any case, we can envision the banning of auto traffic from the central areas of certain new complexes, as well as from a few old cities.

7

Those who believe that the automobile is eternal are not thinking, even from a strictly technological standpoint, of other future forms of transportation. For example, certain models of one-man helicopters currently being tested by the US Army will probably have spread to the general public within twenty years.

8

The breaking up of the dialectic of the human milieu in favor of automobiles (the projected freeways in Paris will entail the demolition of thousands of houses and apartments although the housing crisis is continually worsening) masks its irrationality under pseudopractical justifications. But it is practically necessary only in the context of a specific social set-up. Those who believe that the particulars of the problem are permanent want in fact to believe in the permanence of the present society.

9

Revolutionary urbanists will not limit their concern to the circulation of things, or to the circulation of human beings trapped in a world of things. They will try to break these topological chains, paving the way with their experiments for a human journey through authentic life.

Latest US move against Chavez?

Without wanting to get into the rights and wrongs of the FARC (or indeed of Hugo Chavez) at this point. It is still worth keeping an eye on the current provocations in the region.

The right in the US have been continously meddling in Latin America, and the latest incident involving an attack on a alleged FARC camp in Ecuador smells of “gringo”.

Hawks in the US regime have no interest in an end to the civil war in Colombia, and the killing of a potentially key negotiator does no harm to their agenda and their abilty to operate in the country.

Equally, provoking Chavez (and to a lesser extent Ecuador) is likely the latest move in their long game of destabalising left leaning governments in Latin America.

Elections and the lure of the “lesser evil”

In two current election campaigns the issue for the Green Party, and also for the Left of tactical voting has come up.

In the US presidential elections the “spectre” of a Nader candidacy has been raised, whilst in the UK the London mayoral elections and standing against the city’s left(ish) mayor Ken Livingstone has emerged as an issue for Greens and for the various groups of the Bristish left.

All of this assumes an enagagement with electoral politics in the first place. There is a perfectly valid argument against representative democracy that I have a great deal of sympathy. However, if we accept electoral politics as one strategy amongst many, then the issue of how best to tactically intervene appears.

In the US, I feel that a strong Green Party challenge for the Presidency can only be a good thing. I’m not yet sure whether Nader would’ve been the best candidate and now the alternative is split , but we’ll see how this develops. Sure, another Republican victory would be a disaster for the US and indeed for the rest of the world; and the prospect of an Obama victory is intriguing. But, let’s not forget that the last Democrat President dropped cruise missiles on a Sudanese pharmecutical factory – I doubt Obama would have any qualms about pursuing the US military’s foreign policy objectives.

In the UK, the debate is more nuanced. PR in the mayoral elections mean that it is perfectly possible for smaller parties to stand and then urge for a 2nd preference vote for Ken. The Green Party in London is currently debating whether to formally advocate this vote going to Livingstone.

I’d say no.

It is one thing accepting that proportional represenation allows parties like the Greens to stand and attract “safe” tactical voting, but to officially advocate a vote for the candidate of the ruling Party? Not for me. We need clear water between ourselves as a genuine alternative and the traditional Parties. Elections for me are one tactic amongst many and we mustn’t lose sight of what we really want to acheive.

A Convention of the Left?

http://conventionoftheleft.org.uk/

Yet another attempt at Left unity.

On paper it all looks good.

Yet already we see the Left in traditional form.

Arguments on the Socialist Unity blog about whether Parties should be admitted, accusations of sectarianism, pledges to gain support from trade union branches and student unions.

But, no real acknowledgment of the factors that caused the downfall of all the previous attempts the SLP, the Socialist Alliance and most recently Respect.

Its sad, because a new, united left is necessary and possible.

Until the British left can look at their failures honestly, history will repeat itself over and over

Nader for President?

Ralph Nader has declared that he will run for President again.

As yet it is unclear whether he will run as on official Green Party candidate. Although in the Green primary in California he picked up 61% of the votes.

What remains to be debated is whether raising the profile of the Green Party and offereing voters a genuine alternative is worth risking another Republican President.

No doubt as the campaign gets under way, we will return to this issue.

http://www.gp.org/index.php 

http://www.votenader.org/