The future-blind v. the realists

Michael Perelman michael at
Tue Jun 20 10:04:15 MDT 2000

Louis, would you please expand on the differences betweeen O'Connor (1) and
Forster (4)

Louis Proyect wrote:

> >Neither you nor Lou has made the tiniest gesture towards working out
> >how this makes the least practical difference in the work of the socialist
> >movement. You simply keep repeating that things are horrible, with
> >which I am in complete agreement. Over on pen-l Lou is making a lot
> >of fuss about how Marx wasn't merely a theorist but that everything
> >he wrote was directly linked to the exigencies of building a socialist
> >movement. But when I say that should be of concern to marxist
> >ecologists today, Lou has recourse to the academic marxist's position
> >that curiosity about the truth is a good thing.
> >
> >Carrol
> Evidently you weren't paying close attention to what I was saying. I stated
> that after the completion of Capital, Marx turned his attention to
> immediate problems in the class struggle. He was absorbed with
> party-building problems, how to interpret phenomena like Bonapartism,
> Russian populism and chattel slavery, etc. But Volume 3 of Capital
> addressed important theoretical issues involving the use of land, which was
> related to the most pressing ecological crisis of the 19th century: soil
> fertility. Even after this theoretical analysis was completed, Marx never
> proposed that the revolutionary movement campaign around the question of
> restoring soil fertility by eliminating the breach between town and
> country. This remained a "maximal" demand of the Communist Manifesto. His
> main intention was to state that only communism could resolve this crisis.
> On the level of day-to-day struggles, Marx was much more concerned with
> issues such as how to overthrow the landed gentry, establish the right to
> vote for the working class so it could advance its own interests, etc. The
> fact that he was preoccupied with the latter does not mean that he
> neglected the former issues.
> The problem today is that we have not carried out the kind of work that
> Marx did in V. 3 for the ecological crisis of today. Within Marxism, there
> are four schools of thought that are contending with each other:
> 1. James O'Connor's "second contradiction" thesis: This maintains that the
> capital accumulation process will continue to undermine its ability to
> sustain itself. Breakdowns in the environmental infrastructure (water,
> sanitation, food) will eventually undermine capitalism's ability to create
> commodities at the point of production, which is the realm of the "primary
> contradiction" between wage-labor and capital.
> 2. David Harvey's "brown Marxism": This has been defended here by Jose and
> those comrades who have been influenced by Frank Furedi. With Harvey, you
> get a "workerist" attack on issues such as deforestation, etc. He argues
> that the disappearance of the rainforest doesn't matter much to people
> living in the ghetto, so the left should focus on things like exposure to
> pesticides by farmworkers, etc.
> 3. Frankfurt School: This includes a number of thinkers who argue that Marx
> never really considered ecological questions and that this is the cause of
> environmental ruin in the former Soviet Union. They stress the need for a
> return to "spiritual" values and share many of the beliefs of the deep
> ecologists. Ted Benton, editor of "The Greening of Marxism", is the most
> prominent spokesman for this current. He felt the need particularly to
> attack the "Promethean" aspect of Marxism on these questions.
> 4. Classical Marxism: This is a fairly recent trend and owes much to Paul
> Burkett, author of "Marx and Nature" and John Bellamy Foster whose "Marx's
> Ecology" attempts to restore the materialist component of Marx's thought.
> Mark and I are obviously part of this trend, but have our own particular
> areas of interest. Mark has been concentrating on the energy and global
> warming questions, while my attention has been focused on ecology and
> indigenous peoples.
> In any case, until Marxism has debated out and resolved these questions, it
> will not be able to maximize its influence on the intelligentsia. I want to
> stress the importance, by the way, of who our target audience is. It is not
> the working-class at this point. It is a rather broad milieu of scientists
> and students in various fields who are deeply distressed by the state of
> the world. We are trying to win them to Marxism. Unless they understand
> that the ecological crisis is rooted in the capitalist system, they will
> continue to encounter frustration.
> It is unfortunate that you lack the intellectual curiosity to delve into
> these issues, but are not shy about intervening in the discussions. For
> somebody who is a retired academic, you have the time and the training to
> improve your mind. Writing garbage on the Marxism list is a good way to
> kill time, but not to develop theory.
> Louis Proyect
> The Marxism mailing-list:

Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 530-898-5321
E-Mail michael at

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