[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 
stood out.

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 
with activists.

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. 

In solidarity,

Joseph Green

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
> aware"
> > 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
> environmentalism,
> > as represented by Al Gore and the leaders of the mainstream
> environmental
> > 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
> statements 
> like that above.
> But in the rest of the piece, you've missed an entire genre of
> activism 
> and radical critique, known as "climate justice." Was this
> intentional?
> The framing around "climate action" is most often understood within
> the 
> likes of Al Gore, WWF and other ecological-modernizers; that's a why
> a 
> global CJ network emerged in 2007.
> The idea of "class struggle" in climate change is excellent, but
> could 
> 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
> with 
> 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
> Environmental 
> 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.
> Cheers,
> Patrick

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