The Left and the Environmental Crisis
Humanity today faces what may be its greatest crisis—the destruction of our environment threatening the continued existence of life on Earth. The Left began to address this issue over the last two decades, but only in the last few years has it been recognized that coming to grips with the environmental crisis must be a top priority not only of the Left but of all the peoples of the world.
The question then becomes how do we as socialists address the environmental issue and what is its relationship to our historic demand for fundamental change in politics, society, and economics to bring about a democratic socialist society?
New Politics offers here eight left analyses from different perspectives. Four of the articles had their origin in presentations at the Left Forum in June 2013, the principal theme of which was “The Left and the Environment.” The articles by Nancy Holmstrom, Jill Stein, and Christian Parenti were originally talks given at the opening plenary, while Brian Tokar’s is based on a workshop presentation. The Left Forum has come to be an important occasion for activists on the American Left to come together to discuss, debate, and strategize and we are pleased to be able to demonstrate in this issue our appreciation for the Forum in which New Politics editors, authors, and readers also regularly participate. Robin Hahnel’s article, an open letter to the environmental justice movement, is a revised version of a talk given at a conference on “The Political Economy of the Environment” held in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2013 co-sponsored by the Union of Radical Political Economy and New Politics. The articles by Michael Löwy on ecosocialism, by Natassa Romanou on the environmental crisis in Greece, and by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington on Los Alamos were all written especially for this issue.
In this symposium:
It’s very humbling to be in this room, not to mention on this stage, with all the vision and dedication that’s packed within these four walls. Thanks to the board and Seth Adler, the volunteers, and all of you here tonight for making this conference happen.
I am going to discuss the political implications of climate change as regards the role of the state. The punch line is this: climate change means that the state is coming back. The choice is whether the state’s return will be violent and repressive or whether its return can involve a renovation and transformation that enhances the state’s progressive and democratic features.
Today environmental politics in the U.S. appears hopelessly polarized. Liberals and progressives try to sustain and occasionally strengthen environmental legislation, while those on the right are inalterably opposed, even seeking to defund core institutions such as the EPA. This extreme polarization, where anti-environmentalism has become part of the cultural as well as the political apparatus of the right, is a recent, and hopefully short-lived, phenomenon.1
Ecosocialism is an attempt to provide a radical, civilizational alternative to capitalism, rooted in the basic arguments of the ecological movement, and in the Marxist critique of political economy. It opposes to capitalism’s destructive progress (Marx) an economic policy founded on non-monetary and extra-economic criteria: social needs and ecological equilibrium.
November 4, 2013
Dear fellow fighters in
the Climate Justice Movement:
I am a long-time advocate of both climate justice and fundamental system change. I am writing to you with whom I share these central political commitments because I believe you are making a serious strategic mistake by categorically rejecting international carbon trading.
I am especially excited about the theme of this year’s conference because it represents what I think is a historic advance in left thinking. In all the years of the Left Forum, not to mention the Socialist Scholars Conference before it, plenary speakers have addressed a huge range of left topics from a variety of perspectives. Certainly the ongoing economic crisis has received a great deal of our attention and must continue to.
Many misconceptions still exist in the mainstream about the ongoing economic crisis in Southern Europe. First, the crisis is often considered a direct result of the 2008 banking sector collapse in the United States, but it is becoming abundantly clear that it is a by-product, an expected outcome, of the current economic system, capitalism, which relies on continuing growth and competition, profit maximization, power and wealth accumulation by the oligarchy, commodification of public goods and resources, and the voracious exploitation of the environment.
Each August 6 in Hiroshima, speakers reiterate familiar statistics, such as how the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombs tragically slaughtered 140,000 people. Many evoke J.