More on Socialist energy / environment measures (response to Mark)

Kay McVey katsummerland at
Mon Dec 2 23:16:16 MST 2002

Mark Jones writes:
(clip) we Marxists rightly reject the position taken
by Earth Firsters, namely that humans deserve to
become extinct if and inasmuch as we threaten the
viability of other species and ecosystems. But I also
reject the view, traditionally held in some Marxist
quarters, that human life has some special
inviolability or sanctity and that the rest of the
natural world is at our disposal to use/abuse and
exploit as we will. The problem with this very
widespread 'humanitarian' instinct is that it is this
'them and us' attitude to the rest of nature which got
us into this mess in the first place. Nothing more
endangers the survival of the human species than the
view that we have a god-given right to exploit other
species and the natural world, without understanding
the ways in which we are a part of that world, not
separate from it, and we are implicated in its fate.

Kay replies:
On the contrary it is this humanitarian instinct which
will force us to consider the impact of our actions on
the natural world.  It’s not so much that we deserve
to become extinct, we will become extinct.  As you
point out.

Mark writes:
There is no second Earth standing by for us to move
into when we finishing fucking up this one. If that is
what John Foster means by 'metabolic rift' then I
agree with him. If we don't learn to respect the
functioning and in some sense, inviolability, of
evolution as a total process, then we are likely to be
phased out ourselves.

And then Mark offers up self sacrifice as an extreme

Therefore any concept of socialism which does not have
an Ecological Imperative at its heart is not going to
work. This means, in the most extreme case (speaking
purely hypothetically), that there may be times when
people, even whole populations, might have to be
sacrificed to save some other species from extinction.
The issue becomes, how will we collectively make such
decisions, bearing in mind that under socialism the
collective will include presumably some of the people
whose lives might need to be sacrificed. I'm putting
the most extreme dilemma I can think of forward, as an
example of the issues which any realistic socialism
will have to find institutional, morally-codified ways
of dealing with.

Kay replies:
What sort of muscular “scientific” socialism is this?
As a socialist I am not fighting for the right to be
complicit in deciding which group of humans has lesser
status and can be encouraged to self select or be
coerced to die for the rest of humanity and the
natural world.  This sounds like the Brits who stood
by while millions died in the Irish Famine while they
still exported oats and any other human-made famine
you care to name.  I am sure they thought this was for
the greater good.  What a world to win!!!

Mark writes:
(clip) are avoiding the central issue that confronts
our times and our beliefs. This is the issue of how to
effect the transition away from the petroleate
society. It is a central issue because if we fail to
do this then we abandon any form of meaningful
politics and future history will be written between
people Islamic fundamentalists and their
mirror-inverses, the political fundamentalists now in
power in Washington. They at least understand what the
fight is really all about: who controls world energy.

Kay replies:

So the future is a choice between barbarism and
barbarism since it seems unlikely that the "transition
away from the petroleate  society" is going to happen
in the next few weeks?  And if/when the war comes the
oil fields aren't likely to be pumping while they

Mark writes:
My second thought is that we should avoid utopian
schemes and concentrate on
building parties and viable political coalitions in
the here and now.

Kay replies:
I wonder how you can build viable parties and/or
coalitions without some vision of what future we are
fighting for.  Go and look at the Swans site.  It
might restore your equilibrium and respect for

Mark writes in a later post:

The point is actually about *saving* lives not
sacrificing them. The notion
of sacrifice for a just cause is implicit in the very
idea of armies, to
take just one conventional instance. I'm not arguing
for pointless
sacrifice, but merely extending a well understood
argument about the Greater
Good. Nobody sees anything intrinsically exceptional
about that. Such
sacrifice is generally thought to be heroic, not
senseless. It is
conventionally the highest form of heroism and the
ultimate expression of
what you are, to give your life for something you
believe in. I'm not sure
you are ready to offer people that choice tho, perhaps
because you don't
think people will buy it. Your appeal seems to be
purely to self-interest,
but nobody dies at the barricades for that, do they?

Kay replies:
At the heart of conscious self sacrifice is indeed
self interest.  In early historic times the sacrifice
of children was to placate an angry god or to please
one for a good harvest.

Self sacrifice is engendered by fighting to keep what
you have got.  Think Stalingrad.  What about those
young boys on the line in Iran or indeed the Taliban?
They thought they would go immediately to heaven and
their families would be honoured.

Putting yourself on the line for the idea of a better
life, fighting against those who would keep you
enslaved, is not the same as to calmly go to your
death for the so called greater good.  It is the
height if fanaticism, think Jonestown.  If the world
got to that state, then humanity would be beyond
saving anyway.


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