More on Socialist energy / environment measures

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Dec 5 09:00:54 MST 2002

> Ultimately I am quite in agreement with him that we have to deal with the
> reality we are in and not make silly promises along the lines of 'under
> socialism every worker will have his or her own jet plane'; or imagine that
> socialist life on this planet in the coming century will be present-day
> Winnetka, Illinois [an affluent suburb] multiplied by 100,000; or suppose
> that all the horrible legacies of capitalism will disappear the day after
> the revolution with a snap of the fingers; or satisfy ourselves with the
> idea that 'new technology' will solve everything effortlessly, without any
> hard information about what this technology will be.
> Lou Paulsen
> Chicago

Another thought on Mark's alleged misanthropy, etc. One of the things I
am trying to encourage on Marxmail is thinking out loud. If Mark
sometimes bends the stick in a "dystopian" direction, it seems to me to
be a necessary corrective to a lot of the techno-optimism that
characterizes much of the left.

Instead of trying to adopt a prosecutorial tone with Mark, as if we were
in some kind of Marxist duma ("Fellow legislators, I charge Brother
Jones with deviations of the Robinson Jeffers type. I urge you to vote
against whatever he proposes.), we should engage with his underlying
analysis which certainly is rooted in historical materialism. Namely,
that socialism cannot simply appropriate existing industrial
technologies and make them work for the common good.

Indeed, I would argue that much of the discussion which revolves around
capitalism versus socialism misses a crucial point. Our problems are
ultimately rooted in social and economic contradictions that arose with
civilization itself. By civilization, I am referring to the technical
definition of the term, which means cities, farming, etc. Much of the
left, especially salon socialists of the Nation Magazine variety, are
fond of those passages in the Communist Manifesto which speak raptuously
about the growth of cities and derisively about "rural idiocy".

In fact, Marx was a *critic* of civilization. See my review of Thomas
Patterson's "Inventing Western Civilization" for more on this. The
Communist Manifesto urges the elimination of the distinction between
town and countryside. When Marx wrote this, he was already aware of the
problem of the "metabolic rift" which arises when the source of organic
nutrients (animals, humans) are removed from their target (grain, etc.).
  For those Marxists who are in love with Starbucks and their air
conditioners, this might appear unsettling. However, we'd better get
used to these prospects in light of the enormous ecological crisis which
can only be resolved through the *end of civilization* in the
traditional sense and the construction of communism.


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