[Marxism] Some strategies that were wrong in the past are becoming right now

ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu
Mon Jul 13 13:37:16 MDT 2015

In our debate around Greece, the environmental crisis has rarely been
mentioned.  This cannot be right.

The environmental crisis is not only a problem of capitalism, it is a
problem of any modern industrialized production system.  In addition to
the unfair distribution of wealth under capitalism, modern industrial
production is creating too much waste and has too many unintended side
effects on the ecosystem to be sustainable.  We must transition to a
much lower environmental footprint in production and consumption.
Socialism can no longer just mean eliminating the capitalist privileges,
but it also means profound changes of the industrial production system:
living closer to the land, abandoning some luxuries and the throw-away
mentality, enjoying more companionship, culture, free time, and security
instead of toys and stress and isolation.

Looked under this angle, Greece is not poor.  It has some traditional
wealth that needs to be preserved and protected against the world wide
land and resource grabs of a capitalist system which is looking for
additional natural resources to throw into the black hole of globalized
industrial production.  Greeks live close to land and sea, have
community, enjoy culture and leisure more than lots of stuff --- these
are treasures that must be recognized and protected.  Therefore
privatizations must be resisted as much as possible, workers rights and
safety nets must be preserved.

The environmental crisis is here.  It is global and needs global
remedies.  In a socialist system, it would be much easier to change
human behaviors towards sustainability, than in capitalism.  But there
is no time to institute socialism first, we have to do the best we can
in a capitalist system.  Despite neoliberal ideology, a stronger
"pro-active" state is needed which can put limits to capitalist
excesses.  Therefore Socialists must re-think the relation between
reform and revolution.  Instead of smashing the state and creating an
entirely new system from scratch, the road to socialism will go towards
reforming the state, making democracy more participatory, and
eliminating corruption and greed in favor of defending human rights
against capitalist intrusion.

As long as the capitalist system was rich enough to buy off any reform,
and vibrant and flexible enough to integrate all opposition forces,
socialists had to fight "reformism."  But the environment is throwing
the capitalist system into deep crisis because it is making continued
capitalist growth impossible.  Capitalism no longer has enough money to
buy out opposition, and some of its destructions cannot be papered over
with money: capitalism cannot buy out people whose health is destroyed
by pollution.  Due to its inability to lead in humanity's most serious
crisis ever, the entire capitalist system is losing its mass support
more and more.  Therefore it is not wrong for today's anticapitalists to
embrace reforms.  At the height of the capitalist era, reforms could not
make a dent in the coherent and successful system of capitalist
relations.  Today reforms can make big differences.  They can push back
capitalism and create openings for alternatives to capitalism.

One of the major obstacles which makes environmental reforms so difficult
under capitalism is the fact that there is no world government.
Competition between national states punishes those who try to preserve
the environment.  Against these systemic obstacles, the EU has played a
pioneering role in environmental protection and innovation, which put
the other world powers under pressure to follow suit.  Therefore the EU
and its institutions should not be abondoned or smashed, but they are an
arena of class struggle which deserves our attention.

Thank you for reading, if you have read this far.

Hans G Ehrbar

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