[Marxism] White chauvinism and the list

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 18 07:18:44 MDT 2004

Jose G. Perez wrote:
> Right now there's a lot of white racist "yellow peril"
> pseudo-environmental crap floating around the imperialist media. Oil
> prices are rising because of growing Chinese demand. The United States,
> which is 5% of the world's population accounts for 25% of oil
> consumption, whereas China, which is 25% of the human race, accounts for
> little more than 5% of oil consumption and the problem is, of course,
> China.

Yes, there is. But the dominant voice of the bourgeoisie is to 
accelerate the capitalist transformation of the Chinese economy and to 
throw ecological caution to the wind. There has not been a campaign to 
stop construction of the 3 Gorges Dam, for example. Even the liberal 
Guardian has been running articles like this:

The Guardian - Final Edition
October 30, 2003

Life : Cover Story: After the flood: The water has risen, 700,000 people 
have been relocated, and the Three Gorges dam is finally producing 
electricity. So is it the disaster everyone predicted?

BYLINE: Jonathan Watts

Of the millions of lives turned upside down as China undergoes one of 
the most dramatic bursts of development in history, few can have changed 
as suddenly and totally as that of Huang Zongjin.

Until recently, Huang was scratching out a living by cultivating rice 
and vegetables on the banks of the Yangtze river near Wushan town. Like 
the majority of China's 1.2 billion population, he lived the poor but 
predictable existence of the Chinese peasant, which had been almost as 
immutable as the landscape for hundreds of years.

But, then came the order to move. The engineers and the politicians 
decided the old landscape - famous around the world for its beauty - was 
not good enough to satisfy the needs of a resurgent new China. In the 
most ambitious hydro-engineering project ever undertaken, they started 
to dam up the Yangtze, the world's third largest river, just downstream 
from the Three Gorges. Huang and more than 700,000 others had the choice 
of leaving or being submerged along with their homes, fields and 
temples, as the waters of the Yangtze, known in China as "the dragon", 
began to rise.

So Huang the farmer has become Huang the boatman. Instead of working the 
land to grow food for his family, he hustles the busy portside to take 
tourists on unlicensed boat trips up the Yangtze - and over his old 
home, which disappeared beneath the water this summer.

With the compensation money he received for relocating, he and his 
family bought the dilapidated 15-metre skiff they use for tours and 
whatever haulage jobs they can find. The govern ment has built the 
family a new, far bigger, hillside home. It commands a spectacular view 
of the river and the new city of Wushan, but as yet has no running water 
or electricity. Although they grow a few vegetables, the land is too 
steep to be cultivated. But Huang is sanguine. "I may float over my old 
home every day, but I never think about it. What's the point?" says the 
32-year-old. "We can't change anything. And besides, life is better now. 
We have a new home, more space and more money. The dam has been good for 

> Because a tiny, mostly white minority driving around in 3-ton hummers
> that get 9 miles to the gallon is perfectly sustainable for many
> decades, but 1.26 billion Chinese having something a little better than
> shoe leather to get around on is an unsustainable natural catastrophe.

Actually, Paul Roberts, the author of one of the books reviewed in the 
Chronicle that set off this controversy, is mainly concerned with how 
energy is used in the industrialized west. He is not interested in 
scapegoating the Chinese. He is simply calling attention to the clash 
between the reality of depleting energy resources and the ferocious 
drive to remake the Chinese economy in the image of the G8 nations. None 
of this is sustainable. Karl Marx wrote, "The country that is more 
developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of 
its own future" in the Preface to V. 1 of Capital (1867 German Edition). 
Unfortunately, that image is one of ecological destruction. In any case, 
here is what Roberts says about our own energy use:

It’s so bad and so systemic I’m not sure it can be fixed. Most Americans 
and, increasingly, consumers in other economically advanced nations have 
very little idea how much energy they use, where it comes from, or the 
way it impacts the world. The mark of advanced society is that consumers 
don’t need to trouble themselves over every little detail. We aren’t 
hunter-gathers looking for firewood; we want an energy system that is 
seamless, transparent, and so cheap we needn’t pay attention, like 
banking or phones.

The problem is that such transparency has created energy illiteracy and 
effectively removed Americans from any real energy decisions. We have 
little idea how much energy we use, and thus little sense how that use 
is changing. We can’t see that the larger cars and houses, the new 
appliances that are all part of the American Way are requiring more and 
more energy. In theory, you can fix this by making energy more expensive 
and then by giving consumers choices. For example, a hefty tax on 
gasoline would tend to discourage driving and thus reduce consumption, 
as it has in Europe and Japan. Frankly, it’s hard to see that working in 
America; energy taxes are political suicide. To make a change in driving 
behavior, you’d need to tax gasoline by at least $2, yet when Clinton 
tried to enact an energy tax of just a few cents early in his term, he 
was nearly crucified.

> I think Louis's stance on this is a *political mistake.*  Much more is
> involved than comity and civility, essential as those may be to the
> functioning of a list like this. 

I would be happy to debate out these questions with you or anybody else.


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