[Marxism] SWV on Earth Day 2019 and trends in environmental movement
jgreen at communistvoice.org
jgreen at communistvoice.org
Thu Apr 18 14:40:00 MDT 2019
Thanks for your comment on the SWV leaflet, Patrick.
It's important to have consultation on what's going on in
the movement. As to Seattle Workers' Voice and DWV, we
support the struggle for climate justice as an important
part of the overall environmental struggle. Both in Seattle
and Detroit, we have raised the issue of environmental
racism repeatedly. This can be seen by looking for
"environmental racism" in the search engine on the Communist
Voice Organization website. And for example, the
Detroit/Seattle Workers Voice mailing list has been covering
the struggle against the expansion of the toxic waste
facility deceptively called "US Ecology" in Detroit, which
is a fight against environmental racism as well as against
poisoning in general.
That said, I would be happy to know more about the
current state of the climate justice movement. We see what
it's doing in the Detroit and Seattle areas, but I would be
eager to hear your description of its activities elsewhere
and of its overall direction. The SWV article didn't
describe the militant section of the environmental movement;
a short article can only deal with so much. Instead it
focused on showing not just the necessity, but the
possibility, of extending the relationship of the
environmental movement to the working masses. Elsewhere we
have talked about the militant section of the movement, and
what its present limitations are. The climate justice
movement contains many militant groups, is involved in many
struggles, has more criticism of market measures than most
other sections of the movement, but it's not the whole
militant movement, and it has limitations in its standpoint.
With respect to Earth Day activities in Seattle this
year, the climate justice groups didn't seem that
interested. Some years ago, various climate justice groups
in Seattle were much more visible in the general
environmental movement. But since then some political groups
that had been excited about climate justice, seem to have
abandoned it, while Got Green Seattle focuses simply on
community organizing on various fronts. Got Green, for
example, is having its annual Green-A-Thon close to Earth
Day, but this event is solely to ask people to promote or
contribute to community organizing. Got Green also is taking
part in a protest in the Washington state capital of Olympia
against Governor Inslee's cap and trade proposal, but that
action is barely mentioned on its website. Thus, with regard
to Earth Day, the events organized by Extinction Rebellion
Environmental racism is also a major issue in Detroit
and Southeast Michigan. The poisoning of Flint is
well-known, but there are many issues in Detroit as well.
But while there are many groups concerned with climate
justice and environmental racism, they are connected to
different political or activist trends, and don't form a
unified climate justice movement. The different groups are
involved in different spheres of community organizing, and
different struggles. We have carried material about some of
these struggles in the D/SWV list.
But to help strengthen these struggles, there is the
need to develop a conscious alternative to establishment
environmentalism. Naomi Klein talked about the treacherous
role of "Big Green" in her book "This Changes Everything",
albeit a bit ambiguously; this was a very important part of
the book, although I don't know if she still uses this
phrase. The denunciation of "false solutions" by various
climate justice groups is also important, but the issue
eventually arises of what lies behind them, and this is
connected to who will fight against them. I don't think that
denigrating the phrase "climate action" is very helpful or
understandable; there is always going to be a fight within
the environmental movement between different standpoints.
This difference occurs even within the struggle for climate
justice, while the clash with establishment environmentalism
will become even sharper in the future. The militant
movement, if it is to grow and become a consistent
opposition to establishment environmentalism, is going to
have to take this into account. It needs to discuss this
But look what happens at present. In 2017, the Climate
Justice Alliance and the Indigenous Environmental Network
put out a valuable 32-page pamphlet, "Carbon pricing: A
Critical Perspective for Community Resistance/Building
Solidarity Against the Threat of Linking Carbon Markets"
(October, 2017). It vigorously and vehemently denounced
market measures, including the carbon tax. At one time, the
climate justice movement was critical of various market
measures, but didn't necessarily regard the carbon tax as
one of them, but this pamphlet is emphatically against the
carbon tax. This pamphlet deserves to be much better known,
but doesn't seem to be mentioned even on the CJA website,
nor that of Got Green Seattle, which is part of the CJA.
Well, I'm still looking through CJA material, so maybe I
missed something. (The IEN website differs from the others
in carrying the pamphlet and a number of other materials
against market measures.) But it seems like the pamphlet
isn't even mentioned when CJA is critical of market measures
in various Green New Deal proposals.
The climate justice movement (as a separate movement
and not just as everyone and every group who supports
climate justice and fights environmental racism) seems to
have a narrow political focus. It engages in militant
struggle, but as far as the part of it that we are familiar
with in our work, it doesn't take up what's necessary to
build a conscious and consistent mass alternative to
establishment environmentalism. It doesn't tend to discuss
widely the political basis of its own movement. It doesn't
seem to show any more interest than establishment
environmentalism in major mass actions related to
environmentalism, but not directly part of the environmental
movement, such as the Yellow Vests in France and notable
actions in other countries. And it's view of what's needed
focuses on "community-led economies", while it is long past
the time when such solutions suffice.
The militant environmental movement needs to make a
class distinction with the establishment environmentalists.
You write that the idea of class struggle "could be seen as
downplaying the indigenous, feminist and ecological
considerations". No doubt there are those who do see class
struggle in that light, but the appeal to build a
working-class environmental movement cuts against such
conceptions, and even suggests by analogy that the
working-class should be active on other fronts as well. We
have held to this broad conception of the class struggle
since the beginning of our trend in the late 1960s, and, for
example, we have raised at workplaces everything from the
struggle against racism to the pro-choice issue at the
workplace, not just the economic struggle. And without the
concept of the class struggle, what's left of ecosocialism
or anti-capitalism? Or of the idea of building an
alternative to corporate environmentalism and Big Green?
Perhaps, Patrick, you have a different conception from the
SWV leaflet of how the class issue should be raised, and I
would be interested in what's on your mind with respect to
this, but it has to be raised, one way or another.
It's true that an appeal to build the working class
environmental movement, as in the recent SWV, is different
from just appealing for reinforcing the climate justice
movement. The SWV leaflet tried to express briefly issues
that are important for building an effective environmental
movement. In doing so, it sought to take into account the
needs of the militant section of the environmental movement,
including climate justice activists.
Looking forward to more discussion.
On 14 Apr 2019 at 10:21, Patrick Bond wrote:
> On 2019/04/14 7:46 AM, jgreen--- via Marxism wrote:
> > As the demand for climate action grows:
> > ...Rather than attempting to plan and directly regulate industry,
> agriculture and
> > transportation, in the 1990s a large number of "environmentally
> > governments embarked on the path of trying to use market
> measures--setting up
> > a market in carbon-emission certificates ("cap and trade)" and/or
> imposing carbon
> > taxes--to rein in green house gas emissions. Other countries,
> such as the United
> > States, didn't even do that much. Furthermore, establishment
> > as represented by Al Gore and the leaders of the mainstream
> > groups, did their utmost to divert the environmentalists into
> becoming champions
> > of these market solutions that have so miserably failed.
> Joe, I always respect your work, as you know, especially in
> like that above.
> But in the rest of the piece, you've missed an entire genre of
> and radical critique, known as "climate justice." Was this
> The framing around "climate action" is most often understood within
> likes of Al Gore, WWF and other ecological-modernizers; that's a why
> global CJ network emerged in 2007.
> The idea of "class struggle" in climate change is excellent, but
> be seen as downplaying the indigenous, feminist and ecological
> considerations that have become so important on the left in the last
> dozen years.
> Today, seeing the radicalizing youth, Extinction Rebellion and Ende
> Galaende moving so firmly is excellent, and your outreach to them
> this sort of analysis is appreciated - since the distinction between
> market-oriented strategies and eco-socialism is vital to stress.
> But since groups like Climate Justice Alliance, Indigenous
> Network, DAPL warriors, Attac and so many others are in motion, and
> their roots go back so far in this struggle, the evacuation of the
> anti-capitalist CJ tradition doesn't seem logical.
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