[Marxism] The absence of real forces [was: The low point]

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Fri Aug 3 06:29:12 MDT 2007

Joaquin wrote:

> We need to grapple with some pretty serious issues.
> For example, I do not believe that socialists --and most of all in the
> United States-- should offer or promise a significant, generalized
> increase
> in the "standard of living" of working people in this country as that is
> generally conceived today. I don't think it is responsible and I don't
> think
> it is realistic. The U.S. standard of living is maintained through
> imperialism's exploitation of the whole world and a disproportionate (and
> extremely wasteful) consumption of the world's resources. "Elevating" the
> rest of the world to U.S. or other imperialist country levels of
> consumption
> is simply not realistic -- the world is a finite, bounded place, and the
> biosphere on which we depend is an extremely thin crust of this small
> planet.
This sounds a bit too Malthusian, though maybe John Bellamy Foster and other
Marxist ecologists would disagree. It seems to me that you may be
underestimating a) the potential for developing and introducing alternative
energy technologies to replace fossil fuels, and the pace at which such
replacement could occur, and b) the willingness of Americans and other
working people in the advanced capitalist countries to accept the transition
costs, provided these are adequately cushioned by rebates.

There are already large numbers in the US and elsewhere who are alarmed
about global warming, and at least abstractly prepared to sacrifice some
growth for action on climate change. While this in itself doesn't guarantee
they would acquiesce if push comes to shove, it does suggest that gas taxes
and other measures aimed at energy consumption can garner a mass
constituency despite the timidity of politicians and resistance from

In any case, the left, such as it is, hasn't for some time been promising a
significant, generalized increase in the standard of living so that isn't
really at issue; for the past three decades, it has been trying to mobilize
workers and others in defence of their existing standards and rights against
ruling class efforts to roll them back, and popular expectations have been
conditioned within this defensive context. Actually, universal healthcare in
the US is the only real advance being sought, and I don't think you mean to
suggest that the left should abandon that campaign as irresponsible or

Similarly, I'm also not sure why you think that "elevating the rest of the
world to U.S. or other imperialist country levels of consumption is simply
not realistic." Maybe not, but we do know that the economic and political
balance between the OECD countries and China and other countries with
abundant supplies of labour, resources, and (now) capital has been shifting
in favour of the latter and, despite growing inequalities, raising absolute
and relative aggregate living standards. There is no telling how far that
process can go since we don't have any reliable means for forecasting future
levels of consumption one way or the other.

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