Category Archives: Green New Deal

Lies, Damned Lies, and Sustainable Development

[W]hy do so many assume that a ‘Green New Deal’ won’t just empower those same forces that have run havoc upon the world for the past half century and just cause more death and starvation than has already been suffered under Globalization?
Matthew Ehret, 2019

Sustainable development, the concept, was advanced in 1987 by the United Nations in “Our Common Future,” aka The Bruntland Report, in which it was defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In truth, the Report, intended for “those who shape policy and make decisions that affect the course of development and the condition of the environment”, has served as justification for sustained growth: “A five to tenfold increase in manufacturing output will be needed”; “Painful choices have to be made.” In an alarming display of ecological ignorance, there was admission of guaranteed biological destruction: “Efforts to save particular species will be possible for only relatively few of the more spectacular and important ones.”

Not long thereafter, the concept of sustainable development was boosted by organizations with clout. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) produced in 1991 “Caring For The Earth: A Strategy For Sustainable Living,” a declaration of principles by a coalition of conservation organizations, supported by “sponsors” and “collaborators” that included national develop agencies, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The IUCN therein defined sustainable development as “improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems.” In the same year, the Trilateral Commission published a book, Beyond Interdependence, in which, in a chapter titled “The Growth Imperative and Sustainable Development”, the authors declared that “The maxim of sustainable development is not ‘limits to growth’; it is ’the growth of limits’,” a direct attack on the Club of Rome’s 1972 “The Limits To Growth.”

Sustainable development was quickly introduced into the educational system. In 1992, educators all over the U.S. were receiving a slick promotional brochure for a book, “World Resources 1992-93: A Guide to the Global Environment.” A few weeks later, the book was sent gratis to key educators. A publication of the World Resources Institute (WRI), it was promoted as “the overpowering challenger in the contest for primacy among environmental almanacs”. WRI described its goal as an organization “to help….. grapple with one of our time’s most pressing questions: How can societies meet human needs and nurture economic growth without destroying the natural resources and environmental integrity that make prosperity possible (emphasis added). WRI was supported financially by Corporate Property Investors, Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, and foundations for Weyerhaeuser, Amoco and Shell Oil. A category “Corporate Associates” included Waste Management, Inc., Monsanto, Chevron and E. I. duPont de Nemours, with “cooperating organizations” including the World Bank, the Overseas Development Association, and other organizations devoted to growth and resource exploitation (current WRI support here).

The Federal Government championed sustainable development from the beginning. In 1992 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a report (230-R-93-005) to Congress with “EPA is … assisting regional, state, and local efforts to promote sustainable development … The Nation can only achieve and maintain sustainable development when its citizens understand the concept and embrace it as a national priority.” President Clinton’s 25-person Council on Sustainable Development was co-chaired by Dow Chemical vice president David Buzzelli. Eight representatives had corporate ties (e.g., Chemical Manufacturer’s Association, the Committee for Economic Development, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Business Council for Economic Development), whereas the five environmentalists were administrators for “Big 10″ environmental organizations, themselves recipients of corporate largesse. And why be surprised? The Council just mirrored Clinton and his Vice President, as they expressed the view that “We will renew America’s commitment to leave our children a better nation … whose leadership for sustainable global growth is unsurpassed” (emphasis added).

In 1972, the Club of Rome published “The Limits To Growth” grounded on a study of five factors: resource depletion, industrial output, pollution, agriculture, and population growth, and the dynamics of their interactions. Conclusions of the study were a harsh warning regarding limitations that our beautiful home planet places on human activities, because system collapse was predicted for the middle of the current Century if a “business-as-usual” model were to be maintained, which, despite much political posturing, has been the case. There have been periodic updates of the study. Such “doomsday” talk has not been what industrial and financial interests have wanted to hear, and since publication there has been much criticism of “The Limits To Growth” from economists and the business community. However, a recent “40 year update”, a 2014 study released by the University of Melbourne, reveals that the business-as-usual scenario of The Limits To Growth “… aligns well with historical data that has been updated for this paper.” Data came from the UN and federal sources. That the gravity of this global situation is not front-and-center news is itself a reflection of media ownership.

Sustainable development, in sum, was captured early on by global financial forces the life blood of which is unending growth. As history confirms, it has proven to be a highly manipulable concept for a corporate/political/media network to normalize in the public mind. The suggestion of sustainability indicates things are going to be just fine, so it has been employed as a kind of mass tranquilizer. As the sustainability idea has advanced over the decades, discussions surrounding it have shifted easily, as required, between ‘development’ and ‘growth.’ Among the UN’s many laudable Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as peace and the eradication of poverty, one also finds the advancement of “inclusive and sustained economic growth” in which “business and the private sector” are to play a key role, this expressed in its Agenda 2030. The admittedly “supremely ambitious” Agenda 2030 looks like 15,000 words of wishful thinking considering the profit-driven interests that have been — and that are intent on remaining — at the helm. The banking world certainly has lost no time in the creation of “green financial instruments” for the Green New Deal.

The prospect of the Green New Deal becoming morphed into Sustainable Development by another name is real, given the powerful forces so adept at co-opting and repackaging things to serve their own ends. The development/growth debate has long been dominated by business interests, economists, advertisers and corporate journalists, with biologists neglectfully absent. And yet, it all boils down to biology, for when species “overshoot” the capacities of their environments to support them, collapse is the result. Our species is certainly unique in the ability to modify ecosystems (typically at the expense of other life forms) as a means of staving off the impacts of our having exceeded — as we know we have — earth’s ability to support our resource-hungry billions. But we are not immune to natural laws, and this party cannot last forever. It’s not clear, exactly, how it will play out in the long run, but one thing is certain: Ultimately, we shall find out.

Questioning the Extremely Online

This essay is in regard to a crime that too often goes unmentioned when the conversations turn towards political analysis, the contemporary journalistic scene, and broader social critique: the crime of being extremely online.

What does it mean to be extremely online? It mostly is as straightforward as it sounds. Generally, activities such as spending too much time on the web, scrolling through social media feeds out of habit, checking email or notifications dozens of times a day, all are symptoms of the extremely online person. Particularly, too much smartphone use is a devastating problem.

There is also a more specific version, which both mainstream journalists and alternative media commentators employ on both the right and left: constantly posting every news update; sharing a gazillion times every day each and every version and opinion on a current event/post/tweet about the lead news stories of the day, whether it is something interesting about global warming or something as ignorant and banal as the president’s tweets; prognosticating about the presidential election a year and a half before it happens;  using dubious polls or statistics to bolster weak arguments; and basically reacting to every media spectacle with behavior including, but not limited to, juvenile tantrums, posturing, faux outrage, jaded cynicism, pompous virtue-signalling, ironic detachment, and narcissistic self-aggrandizement.

Quite a few alternative media commentators tend to replicate and mimic the 24/7 spectacle that is mainstream news. That is to say, many have internalized the messaging style; the hyper-fast response time to current events…generally speaking, the norms of mainstream commentary and thus bourgeois values are being internalized. The more time spent posting for an online following on social media, the stronger the pull of an affinity to a certain type of power. Digital hierarchies become hardened, and the bourgeoisification of the web intensifies. As we shall see below, even those who identify as anti-capitalist or socialist are not immune.

The types of online behaviors regarding political debate exhibited above may be the exception, but with the expansion of social media along with its hyper-stratified tendencies, it may soon become the norm.

What research has shown is that digital literacy creates a path towards more open attitudes towards digital technology, which can be called Technophilia.1 This research points towards entertainment as one of the key drivers in promoting positive emotions and behavior when using digital technology, which results in a positive feedback loop leading to more intense and rewarding use.

If you extrapolate from this a bit, I’d suggest that the top online influencers in various political schools of thought will be more predisposed towards promoting digital technology, simply because they are benefitting from it financially. We have a situation where the most popular commentators are economically tied to social media, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that their naïve optimism regarding the power of digital media will not stop there, but rather, the naivety extends to industrial society as a whole.

The social media environment creates a logic of its own, just as most modern technology does. One obvious materialist analogy is to the medical industry. As long as for-profit companies are allowed to dominate pharmaceutical and research endeavors, the logic of the system will mean that more people are made sick, anxious, depressed, etc., to make more money for corporations. With social media, the logic of its internal dynamics precludes nuanced, informed, lengthy public deliberation in favor of sound-bite quotes, sloganeering, and focusing on personalities, along with the most shallow forms of identity politicking. Its logic depends on divisive, sensational, hateful, and ultimately fascistic rhetoric dominating political discourse.

Since the scope of Technophilia broadens and intensifies with continued use of labor-saving devices made under exploitative conditions, it ultimately results in many self-proclaimed anti-capitalists falling under the sway of propaganda emanating from mainstream technological society, as we shall see below.

Class is never taken seriously in our society. In many rural areas around the USA broadband internet access is still out of reach, and is expensive for many poor urban Americans as well, creating a digital divide. Thus it is no wonder that the rich and middle-classes are more “open” towards the web and smart-phone use. They derive more pleasure from them in terms of entertainment, increased digital literacy, and monetary success. The flip side of being more open is being more immature and blind to dangers, however. In contrast the poor and working classes respond to the digital life-world with more skepticism, as the above study indicates.

My contention here is that this digital literacy creates a new form of “digital spectacle” for technophilic Westerners on both the political right and left, especially for the middle classes. The elite implicitly understand that in a society based on artificial scarcity, only a certain amount of online influencers can vie for position in digital media. The professional and managerial classes, and their children ensconced in privilege, all too easily fall under the sway of the competitive forces in online media as well.

The poor and working class understand that in regarding to digital media, they are getting crushed under the weight of start-up costs, social capital which is either unobtainable or sleazy to get, and various online fees and hurdles to make it in a new rigged game of digital society. The digital divide is becoming a chasm, because it too it based on market forces.

As alluded to above, election cycle mania, the fascination with polling data, as well as fixation of GDP, job growth, and many other factors which the mainstream media focuses on are now internalized across the political spectrum, included much of Western Left analysis. This isn’t to say that socialists overly reliant on statistics and polling are wrong; simply that it’s mostly ineffective, as the tone is technocratic, academic, and is filled with the jargon that turns off the average citizen, even some of what is written here. I am not immune, this is a self-criticism as well, as the lack of engagement and overly analytical framework extends throughout journalism and academia across the entire social body.

Most of this behavior has been internalized and learned from mainstream media, which creates a market and manufactured interest in nonsensical statistics and banal news trivia, as Neil Postman points out:

Statistics create an enormous amount of completely useless information, which compounds the always difficult task of location that which is useful to a culture. This is more than a case of ‘information-overload.’ It is a matter of information-trivia, which has the effect of placing all information on an equal level.2

Once data becomes transmuted into a sort of holy substance, it is wielded by both the political Right and Left as a weapon: statistics back their cause and any deviation from the issue is irrational and illogical. This sets the table for false binaries and political polarization across the spectrum of political thought.

What being extremely online has done is given the very few big “influencers” in mainstream media as well as alternative spaces huge egos and warped their ability to think critically. This is most clearly seen in our “troll in chief”, Donald Trump. Time, space, and perception are distorted and it has led to a predictable and unimaginative online discourse.

When a post appears on social media, often if you know the contributor and some of the followers/friends, you can glean and predict what the reaction is going to be and who is going to say what. Depending on the news of the day, I can guestimate what the “takes” will be of my various friends and those I follow. I admit this can be sometimes comforting given the horrendous news we deal with daily. However, it also kind of implies that real people are reacting, thinking, and forming commentary algorithmically, as if our thoughts now mimic apps like Spotify and Pandora which play tracks from one’s favorite musicians; or at least similar artists which won’t offend the listener’s taste. How banal and horrifying all at once.

With podcasts or Youtube videos, as well as message boards, one can see political commentary forming a script, where individuals rattle off reels of their “greatest hits” of points, observations, and reflections, rather than engaging with the subject matter. No matter how hard we try, social media can never replicate oral traditions and real-life conversations. Dysfunction is baked into modern capitalist-based digital communication.

How being extremely online works to the advantage of the few at the expense of the many is easy to ascertain. We are told we are living in an “attention economy” and the extremely online predicate their behavior on this premise, even those who ostensibly identify as anti-capitalist. The extremely online mimic the 24/7 blather of mainstream media discourse, because nothing is too insignificant not to post, nothing too small not to get out in the lead as being “on top of” any given issue or current event. This is the sort of competitive striving absolutely essential to capitalism.

Outrage, shock, compassion, repulsion, empathy, and even “rational, objective” sober media analysis vie for our attention spans, and the extremely online prey upon those among their followers who due to loneliness, emotional issues, or escapism already spend too much time online, and are thus more vulnerable to screen addiction, sensationalist appeals, fear-mongering, gossip, consumer trends, etc.

Of course, the mainstream outlets have been deeply complicit, as it suits their financial interests. As seen by the CNN executive during the 2016 election gloating that the insane coverage of Trump was horrible for the country, but good for their bottom line, or something to that effect.

As for the reaction time of news sources, and thus political commentary, it may strain one’s memory to recall, but only twenty years ago any major news stories that broke after the evening news broadcast did not appear until the next morning, nearly an eight to twelve hour delay

Now, every media outlet is constantly bombarding us with every update and crisis in real time. The main reaction to this (notwithstanding the many sincere alternative media, community-level, and individual critiques) in the collective consciousness is shock and numbness, and it only compounds daily.

Now, many leftists tend to unconsciously mimic the same tendencies of mainstream media. This is done by copying the tactics of mainstream online influencers who use marketing, PR, and advertising firms to get ahead. This is done by pandering to the crowd and reacting to every Trump and establishment faux pas, whether Democrat or Republican. This is done by opportunistic virtue signaling and online activism viewed as a substitute for in person organizing. The virtual becomes more real than the real. Egos become more tied to the digital social environs, a derivative of a derivative.

Apparently the twisted logic is that if the extremely online use social media as a way for exposure and fame, it’s worth it. Social media becomes a tool, a means to an end to uproot the system. The downside tends to be that we become instruments of social media itself, not a new phenomenon in Western Civilization.

Posting dozens of times a day on social media simply is not in anyone’s best interest. It is in the best interest of capital, however. Why else would one post 30, 50, a hundred times a day if not to create an attention economy around oneself, to gain digital “followers” whose gaze will be diverted from possibly more important issues closer and dearer to their hearts…as well as to one’s family and friends, one’s material reality and ability to help the vulnerable and those in need close to them.

What should be obvious is every moment spent online is time away from the natural world and thus a huge time-suck where we exist as zombified, trance-induced crazy people for more information, useless updates, more drivel-data and bits of trivialities that do not change a thing.

Being online means being on the grid and the computing power needed to keep our information superhighway running is increasing like a runaway train. Despite the relatively low cost of powering one’s individual smartphone and computer/laptop/tablet etc., the internet via server farms, cell towers, etc. uses approximately 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption and the total energy use for the web increases by about 20% each year. The rollout of harmful 5G technology and internet of things only will accelerate the technological dystopia we’re enmeshed in.

Regardless of what technophiles and delusional people want to think, modern industrial civilization is a fad. We are going to have to go through an extended period of degrowth and lowering our power consumption and that will have to include less internet use. Most especially, too much smartphone use must be addressed head-on. Smartphones need to go away, for good, and it’s not too hard to imagine a workable society without them. It existed twenty years ago.

This should be simple enough to understand, but again, chronic habitual internet use and social media creates a form of addiction which leads to denialism. For those that do partake in nuanced forms of online discussion, in message boards or even in comment sections, yet limit, self-reflect, and moderate your use, congratulations. This is not directed at you. This is written is response to the serial social media addicts. For those in this group, I’ll posit that one of the root reasons for this malady is that our addict-Left comrades unconsciously identify with the system.

This isn’t meant to sound callous, these people are suffering to different degrees, and I do empathize. Boredom, loneliness, and lack of in-person human connection are endemic to our culture and these factors shouldn’t be minimized when understanding addictive behavior.

Part of the problem is the speed of society now. It’s understandable, people want to keep up with events and chime in with their two cents. It’s a human reaction. Part of the problem is also that the people who have convinced themselves they are part of the solution remain part of the problem. Mainly, because they are unable or unwilling to critically examine the technophilic ideology at the heart of the capitalist-based internet.

The “Left-opinion makers”, as the Situationists were wont to call them, thus fall hopelessly further into the spectacle.

Caveat

Social media use is not a horrible thing in and of itself. Although much of its use tends to replicate competitive and hierarchical relations, there are alternative visions of what the web could be like. Internet and social media companies could have been, and should be now, directed through public funding and non-profit models decades ago to engage and educate working class people, to provide jobs and new opportunities, and to raise the consciousness of the public sphere. This could easily be done even within the confines of a social-democratic system.

What we have now is a web and social media landscape that is largely, but not completely, irredeemable. Again, this does not mean one should completely ignore it, only that social media should be seen as a vessel to get people out of their homes and into the streets: like we saw in Tunisia, in Egypt and many other nations during the Arab Spring.

I don’t know if this metaphor is useful at all, but social media could be used as a sort of liberatory portals or gateways, networks to awaken the masses from their slumber, to take them out of the virtual and into the “natural” world. Web and social media technology can be used to “tune in” people to serious movement-building, to Marx, to environmental protests, to issues like climate change and nuclear war, through digital communication; but eventually there has to be a period when citizens step through to the other side and “drop out” to take the struggle onto the public squares. The thing is, many of those involved in just such struggles seem hopelessly “addicted” or too enamored with the power of internet technology itself, much like what has happened with the fetishization of the internal combustion engine, the printing press, the personal computer, and many other examples.

The Professional Bloviators

Sadly, quite a few self-professed anti-capitalist public intellectuals seem to be ensnared by bourgeois ideology today. Many rightly view our political and economic systems as hopelessly corrupt, yet still cling to the privilege, perks, and soapboxes offered by their academic positions (tied to student and faculty exploitation, which is either conveniently unmentioned or under-emphasized), viewing their own credentials as somehow a basis for a true and fair meritocracy, as if academia is somehow above the vagaries of blind chance, sheer luck, white privilege, and jockeying for power.

Any academic worth their salt should be either heavily insinuating, or outright stating to their students, that college is a huge waste of time and money, depending on how much “free speech” they can actually afford to say without getting canned. Universities function today as huge indoctrination camps to train the next generation of good “liberals” (or good Germans, it might be more appropriate to say) who will never question or threaten to overturn the system: the professional-managerial upper-middle class technocrats, financiers, doctors, lawyers, etc.

Thus, even some dissident academics manage to paint themselves into a corner with ineffectual arguments backing the college system, turf wars, theatrical posturing, lack of engagement with the working class, etc. This has all been said before, but again, it may be worth repeating. For instance, in 2011 in the US there were some “socialists” and “anarchists” supporting the US/UK/French bombing of Libya, and a few who equivocated and vacillated, citing the responsibility to protect civilians, parroting State Department propaganda. Oy vey.

The internet and social media has accelerated this trend, making things worse among the wider population, as even those with core anti-capitalist ideas fall into internecine bickering. This is peak aspersionary politics, or passive-aggressiveness if you prefer, which apes wider bourgeois culture. To recast Allen Ginsberg’s opening line of Howl for today, and I only mean this half-jokingly, we can think of something like: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by social media.” Some Left twitterati self-identify as being “extremely online”: brazenly, unashamedly, and unreflectively revealing the depths of their own screen addictions.

Aldous Huxley described the brain as a “reducing valve”, yet I’ve not heard a fully-encompassing phrase for the situation created by a digital milieu where web algorithms which reinforce harmful beliefs and behavior, prey on our addictions, amplify hatred, sow discord, polarize media and community; by devices that seize and sustain our attention long after we realize it no longer serves our interests; by neurotransmitter hijacking, empathy-deadening, critical-thinking atrophying smartphones and media built explicitly to mine us for money, use our thoughts/photos/creativity/etc. as free content while social media companies and those who advertise on the platforms make billions, and generally to simultaneously distract, outrage, and numb us. “Limbic capitalism3 is the closest term I’ve come across, but perhaps the more brutal, if less artful, phrase is more apt: mind control.

There is less and less nuance and space for radical dissent as many left-leaning alternative media and social media influencers close ranks and offer only very mild criticism of social democratic policies. Again, the striving is self-evident, is it not?

These are symptoms of unhealthy minds, formatted/manipulated/brainwashed to choose between false binaries no matter what contradictions follow from the starting premises of whatever topic is at hand. For instance, take the so-called socialist opportunists who offer very mild public criticism of the Green New Deal, or those who don’t mention the huge cuts in military spending needed to give the deal teeth, so as not to seem confrontational or radical, or perhaps to save what’s left of their perceived (yet, worthless) reputations. In other words, their take is: we don’t have time to build real socialism. Let’s form a coalition with the new social democrats, as if that didn’t end in complete disaster over 100 years ago.

Paths Forward

Now, of course it’s true that reform can indeed broaden and deepen the prospects for revolution, and it is not an either/or proposition, as Rosa Luxembourg explained so well. Yet, we cannot let the crass opportunism and striving for attention on digital media to enact important reforms derail us from steeping workers, students, minorities, and women in the rich intellectual tradition woven by the anti-capitalist Left.

Right in the introduction to the Social Reform or Revolution, Luxemburg states: “The entire strength of the modern labor movement rests on theoretic knowledge.” Despite big advances in the last three years, clearly there is a need for the deep type of work involving the framework for constructing and advancing a truly emancipatory Green New Deal, as well as fighting for open borders, the abolition of prisons and police, and the military-industrial complex.

Anything less than a systematic and intersectional approach will do a huge disservice to the movement and will replicate the cloistered, privileged milieu which unduly benefits the extremely online and their techno-utopian backers.

Reform is welcome because it can lead to tolerance, and its eventual byproduct, solidarity. Solidarity is a radiating emotional, behavioral, and intellectual stance from which flow social bonding and necessary healing mechanisms for our culture. The main ideals of environmental, social, and economic justice revolve around solidarity. Which gives us space to breathe, and here I’m reminded of Eric Garner’s last words. The minorities and the poor in this country have been suffocating for centuries. With no mass base, even the good intentions of those in Congress, such as the “Squad” who advocate for redistributive measures, will be for naught.

If some of today’s US socialist “thought leaders” are so spineless to feign from even mentioning how the prospect of renewable energy corporations left in the hands of private control will end in utter disaster, or to simply pretend it won’t, there’s not much left to say to these people. Then there are US socialists who advocate insanely for nuclear power. Forget theoretical knowledge.  This is basic common sense.  Nuclear energy is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If there is intimidation by peers, or simply self-censorship, or to maintain a lifestyle by promoting such anti-life policies on the Left, well, it’s entirely understandable, predictable, and wretched. It’s also an abdication of responsibility: clearly these are bourgeois stances.

To sum up, pointing fingers at the ruling classes’ blatantly obvious sociopathic tendencies provides the convenient scapegoats and diversionary tactics from confronting the holes in many of our own thinking

Back to theoretic knowledge for a minute. First, we have to take into account the anti-intellectual climate here in the US. One encounters quite a few semi-influential figures, especially on the right but increasingly in anti-capitalist outlets, which are quick to criticize French postmodernists, or the Frankfurt School, or various strains of thought which are deemed too obscure or weighty.

There’s no time for theory is one of their complaints, because it is too time-consuming or turns off too many people. So whatever is too complicated for the gate-keeping digital left-liberal editors is thrown by the wayside, but it ain’t clear where this process is headed other than an even more dumbed-down society. What is clear is we are dealing with lightweights.  It’s pretty paternalistic too, because the subtext seems to be that regular people are just too dumb to be introduced to “Theory” and serious academic work.

The other side to this is that many of the same people who are wonderful at explaining theory or offering political critique, many of the “the Left opinion makers”, have absolutely no environmental or ecological knowledge base. You wouldn’t trust them with a shovel; never mind on a factory floor, a communal farm, starting an activist movement or union, or organizing a cooperative. The materialism part of the equation never kicked in. It’s a function of middle-class squeamishness that needs to be squashed.

Another point I want to mention is the US and UK analytic preference for social critique and philosophical investigation, in contrast to the continental style. And I cannot emphasize enough that the dominant Anglophone trend is to turn socialism into an equation, a formula. Put another way, to offer models of governance and even to organize in the technocratic style. Not only that, but to uncritically accept a model for the future based on unrestrained use of technology, with very little understanding of environmental impacts,  conservation, or basic ecology in general.

We see this techno-fetishism in some of the ideas floating around such as “Fully Automated Luxury Communism”, notably Aaron Bastani’s recent work of the same title. Bastani is close to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. And look who gives a plug for the book, Bhaskar Sunkara. And if you follow these connections down the rabbit hole you’ll see Sunkara’s most recent work gets a plug from Ezra Klein of Vox. So there are all these ties from UK socialists to US democratic socialists to elitist technocratic liberals. And what is in common is a shared naivety regarding technology.

Again, ideas around degrowth are never discussed by the automation admirers. It’s clearly a total dismissal of the idea to preserve their own affluence. Total energy use in the West will have to decrease immensely. The economy, which is inexorably tied to energy use, will have to contract. Nearly all large buildings will have to be retrofitted to remain cooler in the summer and warmer in winter using natural insulation methods. Many large office buildings, skyscrapers, malls, etc. will simply have to be abandoned because there is no way to heat/cool them even remotely efficiently. Modern agriculture will have to be dismantled and converted to decentralized permaculture community-worked gardens.

None of this is even mentioned by the automators. This is because their thinking, their ways of being online, have already started to slip into the manner of the automaton. Which many people acknowledged, where Brzezinski dispassionately saw it as an inevitability of modern life, and famously Marcuse saw it as a downright horror in his One Dimensional Man.

The majority of the world can see through all of this talk of AI, robot, quantum computer, 5G drivel. Most people understand, even if they cannot quite communicate their ideas as coldly or eloquently as the technophiles, that the mind cannot be reduced to a mechanical device or a computer processor. As below, so above, society cannot be viewed or treated as a factory floor for renewable energy powered robots to bring us to some Jetsons or Star Trek lifestyle.

The opportunities for control and manipulation of minds have already grown at a frightening pace in the past fifty years. Even further automation would simply open up more avenues for alienation and exploitation. Here’s how. A pro-automation society would be more open to new hierarchies created by divides among the digitally literate, could empower the pharmaceutical companies to create dangerous new drugs to control moods and perception, could open up more geo-engineering of the planet, to more spying and tracking of individuals, and generally more of the full-spectrum digitization of our lives.

This isn’t to suggest that those among the extremely online don’t have any good ideas, or that the FALCers don’t either. It’s simply a reminder that some of these people are being very naïve in regard to the future of technology, some are materially benefitting from the current toxic social media environment and are therefore biased, and others do not realize the internal logic of the system which engenders some of the very barriers they wish to destroy. In most cases high technology acts as a drug, with an intelligence of its own, and once you’re on the ride you don’t control where you’re going to get off.

  1. Ronit, Purian, “Technophilia: A New Model For Technology Adoption” (2011), UK Academy for Information Systems Conference Proceedings 2011, Paper 41.
  2. Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage Books, New York, 1992.
  3. Courtwright, David. “How ‘Limbic Capitalism’ Preys on our Addicted Brains”, Quillette, May 31, 2019.

Popular Movements Are The Invisible Hand Of Social Change

(Photo from Common Dreams)

The political consensus in the United States is changing rapidly. While the corporate media is focused on the Democratic Party presidential debates and Trump’s tweets in response, the issues that have been advanced by the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, are becoming central to the political dialogue. There is no reason to rejoice yet, as we still have work to do to win the transformation that people and planet need, but the consensus is moving in the direction of the popular movement.

We want to remind you that this weekend is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the ten-year anniversary of the US-led coup in Honduras. The Honduran coup has led to severe austerity, violence and repression. Also, national days of actions for hands off Iran and Venezuela and stopping the raids and deportations are being planned around July 13 and 14. Learn more here. And sign on to be part of the new Embassy Protectors Defense Committee.

From Chicago DSA.

Movement Issues Enter the Political Narrative

Many commentators are noting how the debate in the Democratic Party has moved to the left. Often, they will credit the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign for moving the debate. In reality, it is the people who are moving the debate.  The Sanders 2016 campaign reflected the views of the movement on inequality, economic insecurity, and corruption of government.

The work of activists is being reflected by people seeking office. Polls show that the people are much more progressive than the leadership of either of the corporate parties on issues like taxing the wealthy, national improved Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, free education from pre-school through college, ending US wars and cutting the military budget. Those seeking office are running to catch up to the people.

However, politicians running for office cannot fully represent the views of the people because US democracy is flawed. Money plays an out-sized role in US politics; and therefore, politicians and political parties have to maneuver to both represent the people and satisfy their wealthy donors often sacrificing the former for the latter. This is a constant battle in US politics — people vs. money. And it shows in politicians using rhetoric that sounds like it is in line with the movement but supporting policies that are weak.

This is demonstrated in the debate over single-payer healthcare. There are candidates who pretend to listen to the voters but actually put forward policies that deceive the voters and undermine our goals. Phony proposals like Medicare for some, or allowing a public option as another insurance or reducing the age for Medicare sound good to supporters of Medicare for all but these are not going to solve the healthcare crisis. Some candidates even advocate improving the Affordable Care Act, an approach people realize will not work because the ACA is based on private health insurance that rips people off.

Even candidates who say they support improved Medicare for all need to be pushed. Warren had been relatively silent on the issue and single-payer activists complained to her through various channels. The result was a very strong statement from Warren in the first debate. Our task as a movement is to remain steadfast and demand the real solution — national improved Medicare for all.

Another example is the Green New Deal. This is an idea that came from the Global Greens as part of the movement to confront the climate crisis and was brought into US politics by Howie Hawkins when he was the Green candidate for governor in 2010 and now puts forward the gold standard Green New Deal. While a handful of Democrats have said they support a Green New Deal, the House leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are doing all they can to undermine it. Not only did they stop a Green New Deal Committee from being created, but they prevented the Climate Committee from having subpoena power or writing legislation. The Democrats have merely put forward a Green New Deal Resolution that is exceptionally vague and useless. The people must demand a Green New Deal if we are going to confront the climate emergency.

On cutting the military budget, only one candidate — Howie Hawkins of the Green Party — has called for specific cuts of 75% from the bloated military budget. Democrats have not been specific, and as a party, they have voted for big increases in military spending, even bigger than Trump has proposed. One Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke, has even called for a war tax on wealthy families who do not have any members serving in the military. A tax designed just to pay for military spending is not what the country needs. We have numerous other challenges beyond further funding of the military, which already consumes over 60% of federal discretionary spending.

Sunrise Movement in front of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC.

The Movement’s Responsibility in the 2020 Election Cycle

The United States’ electoral system limits the choices of voters to candidates who are acceptable to Wall Street and other monied interests. We live in a mirage democracy that manipulates voters primarily by using fear.  In this election cycle, the fear of a second term for Donald Trump is likely to result in an “Anybody  But Trump” electoral year to keep people supporting whomever the Democrats nominate. The powers in the Democratic Party want a candidate whom donors to the Democratic Party can support.

With all the mass media attention focused on the 2020 elections, it is important for activists to remember that our job is to build the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.  We need to continue to build national consensus and elevate the issues we support so that no matter who is elected, movement issues will advance. If we do our job well, our issues will become litmus tests for candidates.

The Sunrise Movement is pressuring the Democratic Party to hold a debate on climate change. In the first two debates, there was no mention of the Green New Deal and there was only six minutes of discussion on climate in the first debate, and seven in the second in what they correctly describe as “the gravest existential threat of our time.” Sunrise, which has been protesting at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, including sitting in and spending the night, plans to escalate their protests and insist on a debate around the climate emergency the nation and world are facing.

We must also hold non-profit organizations accountable. These tax-exempt organizations need to be nonpartisan and not show a preference for candidates or political parties. Many nonprofit advocacy groups, who claim to be nonpartisan, are tied to either the Democratic or Republican Parties and improperly use their tax-exempt organization to advocate for the party they support. Activists must push them to be independent of the parties and focus on advancing their issues no matter which party is running candidates.

For example, on June 14, the Poor People’s Campaign held a debate where only candidates seeking the Democratic nomination participated. The debate was live streamed on MSNBC and the video has been published on Real Clear Politics. When the debate was over, young people from North Carolina, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York complained. They did not want to only hear from Democratic candidates. They were angry that the Poor People’s Campaign was showing favoritism for the Democratic Party  As things got heated, the police were called. At that point, longtime poverty and housing activist, Rev. Annie Chambers of Baltimore, stood up from her wheelchair. She said it was “ridiculous” and a “disgrace” saying, “You say you are nonpartisan, but you only have Democratic candidates here.” The reply from the Poor Peoples Campaign was “We invited Donald Trump, too.” Chambers said “There are more than two parties. Where is the Green Party?” Chambers is a Green who was elected to the Resident Advisory Board for public housing in Baltimore. Rev. Chambers looked at the police and Rev. Barber and said, “If you are going to arrest these young people, you need to arrest me too and you will have a fight on your hands. I’m a militant and I’m not nonviolent.” Barber said, “Don’t arrest Rev. Annie” and things began to calm down.

Activists need to remain independent of the two corporate parties and their candidates. All candidates must be pressured to support movement goals throughout the campaign.  When the campaign ends, no matter who is elected, our work does not end. People must continue to demand what is needed to protect the people and planet. Even candidates who make promises to support our policy goals during the election will be pressured by big business and wealthy interests when they are elected. It is essential that the popular movement continues to demand economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace during the elections and after.

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Science Won’t Save the Planet, New Values Will

I don’t write much directly about climate collapse, even though by any measure it is by far the most important issue any of us will face in our lifetimes. And I can gauge from my social media accounts that, when I do write about environmental issues, my followers – most of whom I assume share my progressive positions – are least likely to read those blog posts or promote them.

I have to consider why that is.

As I explained in my last piece, the environment has been a concern to me since my teenage years, back in the early 1980s. It should now be a concern to everyone. And while polls in the UK show that most people are worried to some degree about climate change and the state of the planet, the majority are either still not concerned at all or concerned only a little.

Part of the problem, I start to think, is that we are approaching climate change all wrong. And that addressing it correctly is just too difficult for most of us to contemplate because it demands something profound from us, something we fear we are incapable of giving.

When I share climate change material on social media, it is invariably graphs produced by climate scientists showing the alarming trends of a warming planet. Others, I see, do the same.

But really is that what all this is about? Most of us – at least the ones sharing this stuff – understand that the science is now conclusive. Even, I suspect, those who deny climate change do so not because they believe the data are wrong but because accepting the reality is too overwhelming, too terrifying.

And this gets to the heart of what we need to talk about. Those persuaded by the graphs and the data no longer need those materials, and those unpersuaded aren’t going to heed the science anyway.

So maybe we need to talk less about the science, the graphs and climate change, and much more about ideology, about the inconvertible fact that the planet is dying before our very eyes and about how we have conspired in that act of ecocide. What got us into this mess wasn’t science, what got us here was ideology.

Consumerism our god

In my last blog I noted that scientists kept a low profile when they most needed to speak out, back in the 1990s and 2000s – in part because they were denied a platform, but chiefly because they failed to push themselves forward. That was when the evidence of climate collapse was irrefutable and there was time to start changing our societies to avoid it.

The reason the scientists held back is significant, I think. It wasn’t because they had doubts, it was because the dominant paradigm of our societies – the paradigm shared by almost all of us, the scientists included – was so deeply in conflict with what was needed to bring about change.

For decades – until the financial collapse of 2008 raised the first doubts – we were driven exclusively by a paradigm of endless economic growth, of ever-increasing resource exploitation, of a spiralling personal accumulation of goods. Consumerism was our individual god, and the Stock Market our collective one.

They still are. It’s just that the real, physical world – not the one we constructed out of narrative and ideology – keeps slapping us in the face to try to wake us up from our slumber.

The oceans didn’t fill with plastics last year. Some 1 million species didn’t start facing extinction this month. And the atmosphere wasn’t suddenly polluted with the greenhouse gas CO2 this week. These are trends that have been observable for decades.

The question we have to ask is why did David Attenborough and the BBC suddenly start noticing that everywhere they filmed – from the high seas to the deepest ocean beds – was polluted with plastic? This wasn’t new. It’s that they only recently decided to start telling us about it, that it was important.

Again, scientists haven’t just worked out that there has been a massive loss of biodiversity even in the remotest jungles, that insect populations needed to maintain the health of our planet have been disappearing. The mass die-off of species has been going for decades, even before temperatures started rising significantly. So why have we only just started seeing articles about it in liberal media like the Guardian?

And, fuelled by greenhouse gases, temperatures have been steadily increasing for decades too. But only over the past year have all the record highs, the wildfires and anomalous weather conditions been reported – sometimes – in the context of climate breakdown.

Identifying with the enemy

The cause of these failures is ideology. The reality, the facts simply didn’t stack up with the way we had organised our societies, the way we had come to believe the world, our world, operated. We didn’t see ourselves – still don’t see ourselves – as in nature.

Rather, we have viewed ourselves as outside it, we have seen nature as something to entertain us, as parkland in which we can play or as an exotic place to observe through a screen as a reassuring David Attenborough narrates. Instead of considering ourselves part of nature, we have seen ourselves variously conquering, taming, exploiting, eradicating it.

Derrick Jensen, sometimes described as an eco-philosopher, offers a simple, but telling life lesson. He observes that when you get your food from a convenience store and your water from a tap, your very survival comes to depend on the system that provides you with these essentials of life. You inevitably identify completely with the system that feeds and shelters you, however corrupt, however corrupting that system is. Even if it is destroying the planet.

If you hunt and forage for food, if you collect water from streams, then you identify with the land and its water sources. Their health means everything to you.

We saw those two identification systems playing out as a terrible, tragic theatre of confrontation at the Standing Rock protests through 2016-17, between those trying to stop an oil pipeline that would destroy vital natural resources, risking the pollution of major rivers, and heavily armed police enforcing the system – our system – that puts corporate oil profits above the planet and our survival.

Anyone watching footage of those protests should have understood that the police were not just there to carry out law enforcement. They were not just there on behalf of the state and federal authorities and the corporations. They were there for us. They were there to keep our way of life, our suicidal pattern of living, going to the bitter end. To the point of our extinction.

Like them, we are battle-ready, heavily armed enforcers of an ideology, an insane ideology needed to protect a self-harming, nihilistic system.

A virus killing its host

This is not a question of science. None of those charts and graphs and data are actually necessary to understand that the planet is dying, that we have become a virus gradually killing its host. That is obvious if we look inside ourselves, if we remember that we are not police officers, or civil servants, or arms makers, or oil executives, or tax collectors, or scientists. That the system is not us. That we do not have to identify with it. That we can cure ourselves by learning humility, by rediscovering our inner life, by being in nature, by reconnecting with others, with strangers, by protesting against the system and its values, by listening to those the system wants to denigrate and exclude.

In fact, most of the scientists are very much part of the problem. They, like the media, now tell us how bad things are only because the patient is on life support, because her condition is critical. But those scientists are not ecological doctors. They are not qualified to offer solutions for how to revive the patient, for how to get her back to health. Those scientists who worked their way up through the institutions that awarded their qualifications of expertise are as identified with this suicidal ideological system as the rest of us.

We need more ancient wisdoms, dying wisdoms, of the indigenous peoples who still try to live in nature, to live off the land and in harmony with it, even as we make the conditions to do so impossible for them. We urgently need to find ways to simplify our lives, to ween ourselves off our addictive consumption, to stop identifying with the system that is killing us, and to seek leaders who are ahead of us in that struggle for wisdom.

First buds of resistance

In my last blog post, I called for more populism – not the reactionary kind created by our current leaders to confuse us, to justify more repression, to strengthen their own hand – but a populism that seeks to take power away from those who rule over us in their own, narrow self-interest, to re-educate ourselves that the system is a menace, that we need new social, political and economic structures.

Some readers objected to my call for more Extinction Rebellions, more Greta Thunbergs, more school strikes, more Green New Deals, more climate emergencies. They believe these groups, these strategies are flawed, or even that they are colluding with our corporate rulers, coopted by the system itself.

Let us set aside for a moment the cynicism that assumes all protests to stop us killing the planet are pointless, not what they seem, or intended to derail real change.

Yes, of course, the corporations will seek to disrupt efforts to change the system they created. They will defend it – and their profits – with all their might and to the death. Yes, of course, they will seek to subvert, including from within, all protests of all kinds against that system. We cannot reach an accommodation with these structures of power. We must overthrow them. That is a given. There are no accolades for pointing out these obvious truths.

But protests are all we have. We learn from protest. From their response, their efforts to subvert, we identify more clearly who the real enemies of change are. We grow in wisdom. We find new allies. When we discover that the institutional and structural obstacles are even greater than we imagined, we learn to struggle harder, more wisely, both to change the reality outside ourselves and the reality inside. We find new values, new models, new paradigms through the struggle itself.

Extinction Rebellion and the school strikes aren’t the end of the process, our last shout. They are the very first buds of a rapid evolution in our thinking, in our understanding of where we stand in relation to the planet and the cosmos. These buds may be clipped off. But stronger, more vigorous shoots will surely replace them.

Monetary Policy Takes Center Stage: MMT, QE, or Public Banks?

As alarm bells sound over the advancing destruction of the environment, a variety of Green New Deal proposals have appeared in the US and Europe, along with some interesting academic debates about how to fund them. Monetary policy, normally relegated to obscure academic tomes and bureaucratic meetings behind closed doors, has suddenly taken center stage.

The 14 page proposal for a Green New Deal submitted to the US House of Representatives by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez does not actually mention Modern Monetary Theory, but that is th it’s e approach currently capturing the attention of the media – and taking most of the heat. The concept is good: abundance can be ours without worrying about taxes or debt, at least until we hit full productive capacity. But the devil is in the details….

MMT advocates say the government does not need to collect taxes before it spends. It actually creates new money in the process of spending it; and there is plenty of room in the economy for public spending before demand outstrips supply, driving up prices.

Critics, however, say this is not true. The government is not allowed to spend before it has the money in its account, and the money must come from tax revenues or bond sales.

In a 2013 treatise called “Modern Monetary Theory 101: A Reply to Critics,” MMT academics actually concede this point. But they write that “these constraints do not change the end result,” and here the argument gets a bit technical. Their reasoning is that “The Fed is the monopoly supplier of CB currency [central bank reserves], Treasury spends by using CB currency, and since the Treasury obtained CB currency by taxing and issuing treasuries, CB currency must be injected before taxes and bond offerings can occur.”

The counterargument, made by American Monetary Institute researchers among others, is that the central bank is not the monopoly supplier of dollars. The vast majority of the dollars circulating in the United States are created, not by the government, but by private banks when they make loans. The Fed accommodates this process by supplying central bank currency (bank reserves) as needed; and this bank-created money can be taxed or borrowed by the Treasury before a single dollar is spent by Congress. The AMI researchers contend, “All bank reserves are originally created by the Fed for banks. Government expenditure merely transfers (previous) bank reserves back to banks.” As the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis puts it, “federal deficits do not require that the Federal Reserve purchase more government securities; therefore, federal deficits, per se, need not lead to increases in bank reserves or the money supply.”

What federal deficits do increase is the federal debt;  and while the debt itself can be rolled over from year to year (as it virtually always is), the exponentially growing interest tab is one of those mandatory budget items that taxpayers must pay. Predictions are that in the next decade, interest alone could add $1 trillion to the annual bill, an unsustainable tax burden.

To fund a project as massive as the Green New Deal, we need a mechanism that involves neither raising taxes nor adding to the federal debt; and such a mechanism is actually proposed in the US Green New Deal – a network of public banks. While little discussed in the US media, that alternative is being debated in Europe, where Green New Deal proposals have been on the table since 2008. European economists have had more time to think these initiatives through, and they are less hampered by labels like “socialist” and “capitalist,” which have long been integrated into their multiparty systems.

A Decade of Gestation in Europe

The first Green New Deal proposal was published in 2008 by the New Economics Foundation on behalf of the Green New Deal Group in the UK. The latest debate is between proponents of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), led by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, and French economist Thomas Piketty, author of the best-selling Capital in the 21st Century. Piketty recommends funding a European Green New Deal by raising taxes, while Varoufakis favors a system of public green banks.

Varoufakis explains that Europe needs a new source of investment money that does not involve higher taxes or government deficits. DiEM25 proposes for this purpose “an investment-led recovery, or New Deal, program … to be financed via public bonds issued by Europe’s public investment banks (e.g. the new investment vehicle foreshadowed in countries like Britain, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund in the European Union, etc.).” To ensure that these bonds do not lose their value, the central banks would stand ready to buy them above a certain yield. “In summary, DiEM25 is proposing a re-calibrated real-green investment version of Quantitative Easing that utilises the central bank.

Public development banks already have a successful track record in Europe, and their debts are not considered debts of the government. They are financed not through taxes but by the borrowers when they repay the loans. Like other banks, development banks are moneymaking institutions that not only don’t cost the government money but actually generate a profit for it. DiEM25 collaborator Stuart Holland observes:

While Piketty is concerned to highlight differences between his proposals and those for a Green New Deal, the real difference between them is that his—however well-intentioned—are a wish list for a new treaty, a new institution and taxation of wealth and income. A Green New Deal needs neither treaty revisions nor new institutions and would generate both income and direct and indirect taxation from a recovery of employment. It is grounded in the precedent of the success of the bond-funded, Roosevelt New Deal which, from 1933 to 1941, reduced unemployment from over a fifth to less than a tenth, with an average annual fiscal deficit of only 3 per cent.

Roosevelt’s New Deal was largely funded through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), a public financial institution set up earlier by President Hoover. Its funding source was the sale of bonds, but proceeds from the loans repaid the bonds, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more; and it funded all this while generating income for the government.

A System of Public Banks and “Green QE”

The US Green New Deal envisions funding with “a combination of the Federal Reserve [and] a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks,” which could include banks owned locally by cities and states. As Sylvia Chi, chair of the legislative committee of the California Public Banking Alliance, explains on Medium.com:

The Green New Deal relies on a network of public banks — like a decentralized version of the RFC — as part of the plan to help finance the contemplated public investments. This approach has worked in Germany, where public banks have been integral in financing renewable energy installations and energy efficiency retrofits.

Local or regional public banks, says Chi, could help pay for the Green New Deal by making “low-interest loans for building and upgrading infrastructure, deploying clean energy resources, transforming our food and transportation systems to be more sustainable and accessible, and other projects. The federal government can help by, for example, capitalizing public banks, setting environmental or social responsibility standards for loan programs, or tying tax incentives to participating in public bank loans.”

UK professor Richard Murphy adds another role for the central bank – as the issuer of new money in the form of  “Green Infrastructure Quantitative Easing.” Murphy, who was a member of the original 2008 UK Green New Deal Group, explains:

All QE works by the [central bank] buying debt issued by the government or other bodies using money that it, quite literally, creates out of thin air. … [T]his money creation process is … what happens every time a bank makes a loan. All that is unusual is that we are suggesting that the funds created by the [central bank] using this process be used to buy back debt that is due by the government in one of its many forms, meaning that it is effectively canceled.

The invariable objection to that solution is that it would act as an inflationary force driving up prices, but as argued in my earlier article here, this need not be the case. There is a chronic gap between debt and the money available to repay it that actually needs to be filled with new money every year to avoid a “balance sheet recession.” As UK Prof. Mary Mellor formulates the problem in Debt or Democracy (2016), page 42:

A major contradiction of tying money supply to debt is that the creators of the money always want more money back than they have issued. Debt-based money must be continually repaid with interest. As money is continually being repaid, new debt must be being generated if the money supply is to be maintained.… This builds a growth dynamic into the money supply that would frustrate the aims of those who seek to achieve a more socially and ecologically sustainable economy.

In addition to interest, says Mellor, there is the problem that bankers and other rich people generally do not return their profits to local economies. Unlike public banks, which must use their profits for local needs, the wealthy hoard their money, invest it in the speculative markets, hide it in offshore tax havens, or send it abroad.

To avoid the cyclical booms and busts that have routinely devastated the US economy, this missing money needs to be replaced; and if the new money is used to pay down debt, it will be extinguished along with the debt, leaving the overall money supply and the inflation rate unchanged. If too much money is added to the economy, it can always be taxed back; but as MMTers note, we are a long way from the full productive capacity that would “overheat” the economy today.

Murphy writes of his Green QE proposal:

The QE program that was put in place between 2009 and 2012 had just one central purpose, which was to refinance the City of London and its banks.… What we are suggesting is a smaller programme … to kickstart the UK economy by investing in all those things that we would wish our children to inherit whilst creating the opportunities for everyone in every city, town, village and hamlet in the UK to undertake meaningful and appropriately paid work.

A network of public banks including a central bank operated as a public utility could similarly fund a US Green New Deal – without raising taxes, driving up the federal debt, or inflating prices.

­­­­­­­­­­• This article was first published under a different title on Truthdig.com.

Threading the Eye of the Needle: A Few Greenies Ain’t Gonna Cut Climate Change

Needle in a haystack. Little Dutch Boy putting fingers in leaking dike.

The beach clean-up along the Central Oregon Coast, near Devils Punch Bowl, down south to Beverly Beach, is an exercise in patience, Sisyphus, maybe, as many beach and marine life lovers are volunteering with tweezers in hand harvesting the global micro-plastic harvest.

Might as well have a fork to bring in all the world’s wheat crops.

Piece by piece. Or, scoops of sand, with organic matter like shells pieces and driftwood and these microplastic and plastic nurdles plopped on a gurney-sized fine mesh, is akin to — what? Using one household colander to strain the daily pasta and noodle intake in Oregon?

Scott Rosin is tall, grizzled, and head of Surfriders Central Oregon Coast. He’s chair of the Newport Chapter. Another chapter is called Siuslaw Surfriders, taken from the Newport-Yachats area where we live in, specifically the Siuslaw National Forest, also named after the river that runs through it to the Pacific.

Ahh, Rosin – former arborist, former surfer (his shoulder was blasted out in forestry work – he uses a paddle board to ride five-foot waves or less), poet and local activist – has been heading up this plastic clean-up on six consecutive Sundays, noon to 4 pm, on an incredible beach made to order for picnickers and surfers, even in March.

Helping hands included a few women, Mike Harrington, a 72-year-old member of the Siuslaw Chapter of Surfrider, and a black lab whose owner was down on her knees pulling out plastics of every color and shape.

This is what Scott told the Newport News recently about his efforts:

It would be great if we could get more locals involved. The beaches here are, or were, as beautiful as anywhere in the world. I’ve surfed and played on these beaches since 1973. I can tell you that the problem of visible plastic pollution here has grown exponentially.

Nobody knows what the full effects of plastic pollution may be. This isn’t a disaster that you can see coming, like a forest fire or a hurricane. I anticipate a long road to educating ourselves about the dangers involved.

It’s the local newspaper, and a message of doom and gloom and setting the doomsday clock to 11th hour (actually, 11:58) before the apocalyptic midnight hour hits doesn’t sit well for a local rag that sells ads for real estate, B&B’s, summer cottages, whale watching tours, crab fests, and buy-buy-eat-eat-consume-consume visitors.

Scott and I talked the real stuff tied to not just the amount of plastics in the ocean, and not just the bad-bad-bad hypotheticals of animals eating plastic and then humans eating them up, through the food chain. Anyone with a brain knows that whales and albatrosses and Homo Sapiens should be engorged with fossil fuel polymers.

We talked about these ideas of Americans thinking infinite population growth rates, infinite GDP rates, infinite investment profits, or infinite timber harvesting and infinite consumption and pollution are natural born rights.

The local rag will not allow such real and systems thinking discourse in the newspaper’s news or features sections.

One irony is that Scott and Surfriders and members of SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) and the few volunteers from the American Cetacean Society might not realize that the Siuslaw people (nation) lived in villages along the river until 1860.

Siuslaw Nation living understanding the land, the estuaries, the ecosystems, the whales and avian world, the fish and fauna. The Siuslaw like all First Nations knew the limits of growth, the carrying capacities of their tribes, the allowable safe limit or killing animals or harvesting food.

So, these natural and long-studied indigenous people who could be here teaching in Oregon’s schools and advising all sectors of government and business, well, they no longer have a practiced language. We may romanticize that Oregon Trail story (even Woodie Guthrie has his song, Oregon Trail), but in 1860 the Siuslaw Nation was forcibly removed to an Indian reservation in Yachats. And, then, quickly those homes, farms, gardens and villages were destroyed and occupied by U.S. settler-colonists.

Now California transplants are on the beach trying in herculean effort to stop the infinite plastics tide from fouling everything they came to the Oregon Coast for in the first place.

From the evidence of locals who are blind to the plastic issue and looking out at these Surfriders and others, young and grizzled, the volunteers seem like a blast from the past. Environmentalists, who stick out like anachronous wandering souls, are the minority, as more and more business-as-usual and business-as-usual-to-the-tenth-power proponents have colonized the beach resorts, the city councils, school boards, county commissioner courts.

This Central Oregon Coast is magnificent, but even along the largest ocean covering 42 percent of the earth’s surface (62 million square miles), the Pacific (and the deepest of all oceans at that), microplastics from fish totes originating in Alaska come to the beach in small and colorful forms for a few volunteers to pick at.

Tumbling ghost fishing gear, equipment, supplies – all polymers – tumbling along the ocean currents and ocean floor, ending up floating at the surface, or just below. Colorful bits sea life take for sea nutrients.

Birds eat the plastics. Mammalian marine life eats the plastic. Fish eat it. The extra big yearly tides – the King Tides – push the plastic way up on the tide line. Now Homo Sapiens Plastica are out in small numbers trying to battle the plastic snow storm with a leaf blower.

Scott has never seen this amount of plastic in his 46 years fishing, playing and making a living in this part of the Oregon Coast.

We talked about plastic in every human being’s feces (recent scientific paper on that tidbit). We talked about how by 2050 plastic floating around the ocean and on the bottom will outweigh the total mass of all the organic-living matter in the ocean (another series of scientific papers). I talked about the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific, the deepest canyon in the world — 1,580 miles long and 43 miles wide and maxing out at 36,070 feet deep from the surface.

In yet another scientific series of papers, researchers have ROV’s – remotely operated vehicles – filming plastic bags floating in the trench. Worse yet, the foundation of the food chain – amphipods – in each collection over many months resulted in every single crustacean-like animal containing plastic remnants in their guts.

We can read white paper after detailed scientific paper, but the bottom line is if humanity were to use even one-thousandth of our collective common sense, we’d all be ranting and raving about stopping plastic production and use of straws, wraps, single use bags, containers, noodles.

Forget the fact that plastics are oil based, and the process of polymerizing them involves a lot of electricity, toxins, off gassing and communities around the world exposed to the industrial toxins and waste products part and parcel tied to the entire harvesting, transportation (by a factor of 3 or 4) and production process.

Lucky for me, I can be a member of various touchy feely groups and do some volunteer work with them, but I am not longer hobbled by my scientific credentials or teaching certificates or so-called neutral journalistic standards. I can see through the hubris, magical thinking, delusional belief systems, the false hope and the elephants in the room as people in this society – good folks like Scott Rosin and others I met at a naturalist certification program I went through with the American Cetacean Society have their hearts in the right place, and many times their minds, but their guts are missing the fact that revolutionary change has to happen.

Not a future of greenie Jetsons, but rather a future like the Flintstones is only going to answer the call now.

I also ran into another old timer, like Mike Harrington, a member of Surfrider who ended up in Oregon in 1976, originally from Central California. He packed up the VW van and got his 20 acres near Eddyville.

He said he came here with two children and a wife, because he wanted his kids to be raised where nature and wildlife both counted and were part of their daily lives.

He made his livelihood as a farrier, and we joked about just who his customers are – well-off, bourgeoise, and those with big bucks and the largest ecological footprints.

It’s super tedious, this sieving the wet sand and separating the plastic from the organic matter. Harrington knows it’s a drop in the proverbial bucket (now it’s the drops in the ocean tub). “You have to start somewhere. I want to make this world a better world for my kids and grandkids. I guess it makes me feel better doing this.”

Amanda Zimmerman and Joanna Davis are sisters doing the bit by bit plastic treasure hunt. The sun is out, more than two dozen surfers are seeking curls, families are making sand castles, and the warmer winter Pacific shore waters are enticing some to go in up to their knees.

Joanna says she has to do something. She too is from California, and now is a 28-year-old living in Portland, wanting that Portlandia lifestyle. She has no children, wants none to bring in the world, and she tells me she’s shocked at how few shells and sand dollars she has seen seeing at Pismo Beach, the closest beach to her when she lived in Bakersfield.

The March 4 City Council meeting in Newport will discuss whether to go forward on proposing a single use plastic shopping bag ordinance. There will be many citizens there speaking on behalf of the proposed ban. Scott will be there, after having sent in written testimony.

I’ve looked at the no-to-the-ban citizens, and from the plastics lobby and grocery store lobby. Imagine, 2019, and a small city with 11,000 residents, and swelling to three times that in the summer months, can’t even wrestle with a plastic bag ban.

Even Forbes Magazine, rag of the uber rich, the uber capitalists, lists the coming age of plastic bag bans. But, again, if we can’t get Puerto Rico’s lights back on, and if we can’t even fund our PP12 schools, and if we throw money at Military Industrial Complex thieves and let them laugh to the bank, are we going to deal with climate change?

Ahh, more coming soon, on Peter Ward’s talk, Under a Green Sky (great book I reviewed).

You have Wallace Smith Broecker, the ‘grandfather’ of climate science, leaving a final warning for Earth at an ASU climate change conference via web right before he succumbed to Chronic Heart Failure. I’ll talk about him in a future blog-article.

We’ll talk about the humanity in all of this new fangled (not really) New Green Deal, which is again just another way to let Musk, Bezos, Silicon Valley, Gates, Dell and other techies play libertarian green game of thrones.

Plastics, man. And get this: Oregon’s State Parks will not let Scott and his cronies bring a solar-power pump to get ocean water to their sieving station. Imagine that, they have to haul all this water in 5 gallon buckets hundreds of feet to wash out the sand. Solar powered.

The state’s reasoning: “Well, goddamned goldminers might see this four hour operation and think, hell, I can bring in my gold mining dredges and pumps and arsenic and such. Damn fine idea.”

Are we going to really mitigate the worse and even least of the worse outfalls from climate change when we can’t even issue a special issue permit for greenies to clean plastics from the beach?

We love to believe that high-tech innovations will fix everything. To produce all of our fanciful technology, many of the raw materials are derived from exploiting other people’s land (Africa, South America, Asia), and the manufacturing comes at the expense of other people’s health and livelihood. Let’s hope eliminating this sort of environmental racism figures into the GND platform. Beyond that, thus far in the course of humanity, our technology has only further amplified all of our detrimental ecological issues. It involves over-consuming natural resources and over-producing more of what we don’t need, while leaving us with less of what we do – organisms and ecological systems.

People are saying the Green New Deal is impossible. What is impossible is saving our planetary ecosystem while preserving our current way of life. For any GND legislation to be successful, it must work to conserve more rather than produce more. Moreover, it must facilitate collective radical personal changes to our way of life that fundamentally change the underlying paradigms of our existence. Otherwise, it will be as fleeting as the original New Deal, and ultimately much more deadly.

When it comes to a Green Deal, the only sustainable policies are radical ones. And when it comes to a sustainable global environmental paradigm, unless you are talking about the natural world, less is always more.

Kristine Mattis received her PhD in Environmental Studies. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in biology, earth system science, and policy, her research focuses on environmental risk information and science communication. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a science reporter for the U.S. Congressional Record, and as a science and health teacher.

Forbes Magazine list for Oregon and Washington. See all the places for which a ban is in effect — HERE.

KENMORE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags, 5-cent fee on paper bags

LA CONNER WA Town-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT ANGELES WA City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mm, 5-cent tax on all bags

TACOMA WA City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mils thick

FRIDAY HARBOR WA Town-wide ban on plastic bags

SAN JUAN COUNTY WA County-wide ban on plastic bags

TUMWATER WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

THURSTON COUNTY WA County-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

OLYMPIA WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

LACEY WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MERCER ISLAND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

SHORELINE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

ISSAQUAH WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MUKILTEO WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT TOWNSEND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BELLINGHAM WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

SEATTLE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

EDMONDS WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

MILWAUKIE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

MANZANITA OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

MCMINNVILLE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

HOOD RIVER OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

FOREST GROVE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

ASHLAND OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 10-cent fee on paper bags

EUGENE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

CORVALLIS OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

PORTLAND OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

The Green Old Deal

There are a lot of things to like about the recent resolution for the Green New Deal. The commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the acknowledgment of the catastrophic events that will occur if the world does not act soon- these are all healthy signs. Like Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign which removed many stigmas about socialism, raising public consciousness about the structural changes needed to lessen the impacts of global warming are to be commended.

However, there are very serious problems with the language of the resolution, as well as the underlying assumptions, biases, and ideology which pervades the text.

Starting with an obvious problem, the “Green New Deal” is based on the political and economic mobilization of FDR’s New Deal. It was the New Deal, essentially, which saved capitalism from collapse in the US in the 1930s. If the Green New Deal is saying anything, it is offering cover to the ruling class- here is your propaganda model out of this mess you’ve created; here is another chance to save capitalism from itself. It’s a false promise, of course, as no purely technological scheme based in a capitalist economy will be able to fix what’s coming, but it’s a very convenient narrative for capitalist elites to cling to.

Roosevelt’s New Deal  placated workers and bought time for the bourgeoisie to rally, but it was the combined forces of post-WWII macroeconomic Keynesian economic stability, high taxes on the wealthy, the Bretton Woods agreement, the Marshall Plan and reconstruction of Japan which helped grow the middle classes in the mid-20th century.

Indeed, the Green New Deal (GND) mimics the mainline liberal/reformist agenda when it pledges to try: “directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation…”

That’s about as boilerplate as one can get. You’d expect to hear this blather from anywhere on the mainstream spectrum, out of the mouth of a Chamber of Commerce hack or a College Republican newsletter.

Another issue of basic civil decency is that the GND is blatantly cribbing from the Green Party’s own ideas, and then watering them down, without any reference to their origins. The limitations of the GPUS do not need to be run through here, but the point remains: stealing policies from others who have been campaigning on this platform for decades, without offering even a token of acknowledgement, is not a good look.

I mean, this is all so obvious, and frankly, it’s disheartening and embarrassing to live in a country with such little common sense.

There’s more. The resolution calls for “net-zero global emissions by 2050”. This sounds great, except it leaves the foot in the door for a carbon trading scheme, where polluters will pay to offset their emissions with money, “investments in technology”, false promises to plant tree farms which they can renege on in court battles, etc.

Further, the GND states that it supports:

to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.

It calls for:

[The] Green New Deal must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses…

First, who in Congress is talking about implementing the kind of direct democratic practices alluded to here, or drawing on the expertise of community leaders, local governments, etc? Nobody. Who in Congress is calling for actually concrete material reparations, reconciliation, and public methods to heal the intergenerational traumas, inequities, and systemic racism and classism which continue to punish vulnerable communities? No one.  Who in Congress is calling for an end to our intervention in Venezuela and supporting the Maduro government from the obvious covert and military-corporate machinations currently underway? Not a soul.

I understand that this resolution is a first sketch, a very early draft which may go through many changes. I am not interested in demeaning people who are serious about fighting climate change; or scoring points by being “more radical” than others; or by igniting controversy around a critical “hot take” of the GND.

What I am curious about is how those in Congress foresee the types of jobs being created. Are we going to have millions of people planting trees (the best way to slow down climate change) or millions toiling in wind and solar factories? The most effective way to slow global warming would be to support the Trillion Tree Campaign.

Another ridiculous oversight is the lack of acknowledgement in the resolution of quite possibly the 2nd most pressing issue regarding humankinds’ survival, the threat of nuclear war and militarism. Obviously only international cooperation can determine the nuclear states relinquishing their arsenals, as well as shut down all reactors worldwide. Further, the huge budget of the military and the interests of the defense companies in promoting endless wars are not called out.

The only way a GND can work is through international collaboration. Asking other countries with far fewer resources, infrastructure, and technology at their disposal to “follow our lead” as we undergo a purely domestic New Deal within our 50 states and territories is cruel, shortsighted, and disingenuous. It would be the 21st century analogy to socialism in one country, expecting other nations to simply deal with the wreckage of climate disasters after we’ve fucked over the entire world.

What I’m attempting to sketch out is that to even put a dent in global warming in the 21st century and beyond, the feeble approaches by bourgeois democrats must be denounced for what they are. A GND for the USA as the “leader” is not in the cards; the analogy I’d use is more like a fully international Green Manhattan Project.

This would mean councils of expert indigenous peoples, climate scientists, ecologists, and socio-psychological experts in conflict resolution and ecological and cultural mediation worldwide would begin directing and implementing structural transformations of society, by addressing the separation from nature, historical amnesia, and emotional numbness endemic to Western society.

Natural building methods would have to take prominence over Green-washed corporate-approved LEED standards, massive conservation, ecological and restoration projects would have to get underway, along with the relocation of millions globally who live in unsustainably arid or resource hungry areas, and programs for regenerative organic agriculture would need to begin being taught to our youth right now. Is anything like this happening or being talked about in the mainstream?

These supporters in Congress as well as most progressives are assuming we still have twelve years to act, which the latest IPCC report warned was the maximum amount of time left. Perhaps people should be reminded that 12 years is just an estimate. We might have two years. We may be already over the tipping point.

Really, this is all just bullshit for Democrats to get each other reelected by LARPing as progressives and social democrats, and anyone with half a brain can see that. There can be no mass green transportation system unless urban cores get significantly denser, because as of now, perhaps half the country is still based on a post-WWII design to accommodate the whimsies of suburban property developers who only cared for profit and segregated communities, city planners with no conception of the consequences of rising energy demand, and homeowners in the fifties who likewise did not understand the devastation that sprawl, large energy-hogging single family homes, inefficient energy transmission, and long commutes would contribute to global warming.

How many mountains would need to be mined and blasted, how many wild plants and animals killed and desecrated, and rivers and waterways polluted would it take to get every soccer mom and Joe six-pack a new electric vehicle?

It is possible that only a mass relocation to urban cores with public infrastructure and fair compensation for citizens to move would allow for a green transportation and energy network to work properly. If not explained properly, these positive ideas for change would only feed into conservative far-right paranoia.

There are two people in Congress out of 535 that identify as anti-capitalist. The evidence even for these two is lacking, and we don’t have time to wait electing the other 270 or so. The military, financial institutions, defense companies, fossil fuel multinationals, intelligence sectors, and mainstream media are in total lockstep on the march towards societal and economic collapse and continued ecological degradation. Can anyone see the Pentagon, Halliburton, Shell and BP, and any Democrat or Republican giving away the equivalent of trillions of dollars in renewable technology, resources, IT networks, medicine, etc., to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia? I didn’t think so.

If even self-proclaimed socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez don’t have the guts to speak out against imperial mechanized drone warfare and the CIA literally fomenting a coup in Venezuela, and the majority of citizens having no problem with this, it just goes to show the lack of empathy and education in this country. Both of them are childish and uneducated; and should be treated as such, even if we should show conditional support for this preliminary GND, if only because it could theoretically morph into something promising.

In short, this first draft GND is “old” for a couple of reasons:  first, the economic model and the signaling in the language come directly from the liberal-bourgeois-reformism of the FDR administration. Second, it is old in the sense of being behind the times environmentally; it doesn’t keep up with what science proves is necessary for humanity to thrive: the GND does not call for economic degrowth, a reduction in energy demand, a sharp reduction in obtaining protein from meat, and a thoroughly anti-capitalist method to regenerate civic life and the public commons.

The flip side is that to thrive in a truly green future, we will have to re-examine truly ancient “old” Green methods to balance the “new” methods of technological innovation: the ancient ways of working with nature that indigenous traditions have honed, which has provided humanity with abundance for tens of thousands of years.

Natural building, creating and promoting existing holistic, alternative medicine, localizing energy and agricultural production, and growing food forests must be at the top of any agenda for humankind in the 21st century. This might seem impossible to our Congress because these methods do not cater to “marketplace solutions”, do not rely on factories and financialization, do not use patents to create monopolies; i.e., because these priorities do not put more power in the hands of capitalists.

Here are a few final thoughts. The first is the whole premise of the GND is based on a very reductionist, analytical, and Anglo style of thinking. Basically, this resolution is insinuating that we can change everything about the economy and forestall climate change without taking apart the financial sectors, the war machine, etc.

The second thought follows from the first, which is that the Continental thinkers offer a more grounded, immanent approach which examines how capital itself has warped human nature. Specifically, many important researchers demonstrated how the culture industry has manufactured ignorance, false needs, and ennui on a mass basis.

For instance, in a US context, to put it in very crude stereotypes, how are we going to convince one half of the country to stop eating red meat, give up their pickup trucks, put their guns in a neighborhood public depot, and stop electing outright racists and sexists. On the other hand, how can we convince the other half to give up their Starbucks on every corner, give up their plane travel to exotic locations, not buy that 2nd posh home to rent out on Airbnb which leads to gentrification, etc.

Basically, most middle class people in the US don’t want to fundamentally change as of yet, and this resolution won’t have the force to confront the utterly fake, conformist, and escapist lifestyles most US citizens continue to choose at least partially of their own volition.

Simple, clear language is important to energize citizens and can lead to catalyzing change. The concept of the Green New Deal could very well be that theme which unites us. One hundred and two years ago, it was those three special words “Peace, land, bread” which helped unite a nation and sparked a revolution.

Here’s one last thing to chew on. In the 21st century, the nation-state has proven that its time is over, as it provides a vehicle which centralizes corporate and military power that now threatens the existence of life on this planet. The Green New Deal calls for:

obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous peoples, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples…

Although it is clear the writers meant this in a very general and vague kind of way, as obviously not a single agreement has been “honored” going back 500 years by invading settler-colonialists, enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples would mean the abolition of the USA. That’s a Green New Deal I can work with.

New Deal, Who Dis?

The Green New Deal is everywhere, perhaps in part because it has remained nebulous.  Years, cuts and specifics are all over the place depending on who you ask. The U.S. Green Party, for example, has detailed plans for what it might mean because they were the first to champion the concept here over the past decade, rather than just the past few months.  Those plans include decarbonisation of the whole economy by 2030.

Events this week supported by a large number of green NGOs (such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 350.org and Food & Water Watch) seem to be an attempt to clarify the current clamour.  Amongst a number of admirable details they have settled on calling for 100% renewable energy by 2035 (note that this is not the same as total decarbonisation, as it refers only to power generation), and the phase out of fossil powered land transport by 2040.  No specifics are given for other emissions sources (such as the fastest growing sector, aviation).

The phrasing for the electricity demand used in all documentation is some variant of “by 2035 or earlier.”  It is my hope that the use of “or earlier” indicates a willingness to admit that 2035 is too late for any serious target, and has been included to allow for improvement at some nearby point.  Because the people who drafted this particular sentence must know that when you give government a range of goals rather than a firm demand they will rise only to meet the easiest interpretation: it will be read as “by 2035, and not a minute sooner.”  So the wording must be for the benefit of future activism.

What doesn’t make any sense in this scenario is why we would build this huge push for legislation that we know to be inadequate.  We have taken this approach before and gotten nowhere. There’s no point going from half-honest to mostly honest about the climate crisis at this stage.  These same NGOs are currently complaining that the Green New Deal bill unveiled this past Thursday by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t explicitly ban fossil fuels.  But the tone set by these demands hardly gives them steady ground for dissent (Ocasio-Cortez’s bill at least calls for net-zero emissions within ten years).  As the media representative for Extinction Rebellion NYC, Rory Varrato, recently explained on Redacted Tonight:

Let’s pretend like [the deadline is] tomorrow, because functionally it is.  We know the inertia of this system, we know the obstacles we have to overcome, and 12 years might as well be a blink of an eye.   Indeed we have something like negative 30 or negative 40 or negative 200 years, depending on where you want to peg the problem . . . we have less than no time.

With this framing, you could make a legitimate argument that decarbonisation by 2025 — one of the central demands of Extinction Rebellion — is also too late, on the simple grounds that it may already be too late to avoid a runaway scenario that makes life impossible.  But the date must unfortunately be in the future rather than the past. The only sensible deadline is not four numbers but four letters: ASAP. You will struggle to find a climate activist who disagrees with that by now.  The sooner we can get to net zero, the better chance at avoiding decimation we will have. So why would we rally for a later date when we could rally for an earlier one?

To the argument that demanding decarbonisation by 2025 is unnecessarily steep and will turn people off the issue, let’s consider the recent IPCC report that got all this action supercharged.  That report called for a 45% reduction in global emissions by 2030 (much higher cuts in high polluting nations) and the end of fossil fuel burning by 2050, so within that framework, these demands seem reasonable.  But there are compelling arguments that the IPCC significantly underplayed the urgency of the situation as it has done in the past.  For example, the panel used 1850 as its baseline year rather than the pre-industrial period of a century earlier, ignoring 0.3 degrees of temperature rise.  They also ignored natural feedback loops, assuming that only greenhouse gases emitted by humans contribute to warming. The idea that there is any carbon budget that we can safely burn is a falsehood.  This is what Rory Varrato meant by “we have less than no time.”

You begin to understand why the Green Party plans aim for decarbonisation by 2030; some have been stating that this deadline is necessary for a number of years.  You begin to understand why Extinction Rebellion activists stepped up their messaging from “Oh Shit” to “We’re Fucked” in the weeks after the report.  You may not know how seriously to take these criticisms, not being a climate scientist, but there’s no controversy to the idea that every IPCC report in the past has been unreasonably restrained to the point of negligence.  To ignore the possibility that it may have been so again this time is nothing but a coping mechanism.  Holding back the worst news has not stoked action up to this point. It is time we were treated like adults and told the truth.

Another way to comprehend why the 2025 goal is the most sensible one being suggested is to look at targets that were being suggested by respected actors over a decade ago.  The Guardian columnist and Extinction Rebellion supporter George Monbiot wrote extensively and compellingly in the mid-2000s about the need to cut emissions in the rich nations by an average of 90% by 2030, with a greater emphasis on the earlier part of the period.  It goes without saying that we have utterly failed to do anything of the sort. In light of this, and without the need to understand complicated scientific calculations, it follows that we must now meet an even higher cut in an even shorter amount of time.  We have also learned in the intervening years that the situation is far graver than previously thought, for example, lowering (at the behest of the Global South) the recognised upper threshold from 2 degrees down to 1.5. Thinking that we should have similar or perhaps even lesser targets today as those proposed in 2006 is, to put it politely, illogical.

I suspect 2035 has been picked based on what is deemed to be physically possible, politically realistic or socially bearable.  2035 is far enough away to be thought of as “the future”; there’s a semblance of breathing room in it. Well, if we want to keep breathing, we don’t have time to breathe.  This Green New Deal coalition by definition acknowledges that the concept of “realism” is elastic, based almost entirely on political momentum and will, so let’s get behind some serious stretch goals.  Speaking of politics, we might also consider how the difference between a 6 year timeline and one of 16 years frames our view of election cycles.

The former allows no room to worry about the next presidential pissing contest, as doing so would burn almost a third of the available time.  The 16 year timeline allows us to continue engaging with that game and its soap opera entertainment. While it may be reasonable to assume that little will be done via the White House before 2021, the question is where do we wish to put our efforts?  We can, as we are already being encouraged, spend our precious time debating the differences among the many candidates, whose theoretical eight year terms will still not bring us up to the main target date, giving them plenty of incentive to blather and stall and kick the can down the road as we have seen many times before.  Or we can make an impact on the election passively, by building the boldest social movements possible and making those candidates chase us for votes.

There’s no doubt that the excitement for a Green New Deal has reignited the conversation around climate breakdown, and for that we should be pleased.  This is not about being more radical-than-thou, nitpicking or trying to poach fellow activists. But the proposals sent to government offices this week risk channeling our efforts into a deadly end, and drawing attention away from those voices that are telling the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth.  The time for fiddling over percentage points with confusingly different base years and sector parameters is gone. We must get rid of it all and fast.

Scurrying Fascist Cockroaches

Suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effects has been way underestimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something. Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we’d probably have a fascist takeover-with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I’d even agree to it, because there’s just no other alternatives right now.
— Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, 2002

We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.
— Bill McKibben, The New Republic, 2016

…the survival of National Socialism within democracy (was potentially more dangerous than )the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy.
— Theodor Adorno, quote by Enzo Traverso, The New Faces of Fascism

The question of the appropriation of Environmental movements by Capital is one that has been resisted even more than I had anticipated. So, right off the bat I encourage you to read Cory Morningstar and Forest Palmer’s Wrong Kind of Green…especially now, part four.

Now this stuff links directly with the rise of the newest wave of sheepdogging Democratic Party hopefuls. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and now, Ilhan Omar, are the darlings of liberal media and punditry. Omar read (haltingly) from a prepared text as she questioned war criminal Elliot Abrams. She essentially called him a liar, which he is, but which is also what the US government itself already calls him. And she mentioned El Mozote. But, when push came to shove, as they say, Omar like Ocasio Cortez, signed on for regime change in Venezuela.

Now, Ocasio Cortez is floating something she calls the Green New Deal (which, in another form, was already promoted by Green Party candidate Jill Stein) and which is a nakedly pro capitalist bit of three card monte that will provide a boost to the nuclear power industry and line various corporate pockets. It’s capitalism. Omar and Ocasio Cortez also signed the odious Code Pink letter condemning US involvement in coups while at the same time slandering and fabricating stories about Maduro. The logic of the letter was that US proxy forces and covert activities had a counter productive effect and only helped to shore up the credibility of the Maduro government. In other words, fascism is OK, is just fine, only please do it in ways that will not bruise my delicate sensitivities.

Now please note: Ocasio Cortez and Omar are nearly identical physical types. Both are wildly telegenic (until they open their mouths, but maybe that’s not as a big problem as I make it out to be) and both are sort of pixie like, lithe and slender. When I point this out I am told there is nothing wrong with being slender. At which point I silently scream and tear the flesh from my face. The point is only to describe the similarities in presentation of these two political products. In other words, they are manufactured political commodities. And as Madison Avenue knows, such marketing works, even when everyone is on the manufacturing process.

The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.
— Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

All life is theatre, to some degree of other. I have written before that theatre did not come out of religion but rather religion came out of theatre. And the short explanation is that our psychic formation is tied to a self narration that must take place on stage…even if just in our heads. The scene of the crime. It is Ur-theatre. So in contemporary life I am constantly reminded of just how caught up in the spectacle.. or rather…in the streaming of the spectacle, is everyone, and that it is one that occurs 24/7. And even when the smarter among us notices this facsimile existence, nothing happens. For it is ever harder to crawl up and out of capital. Out of accumulation. Out of the spectacle.

And set against this is the rising tide of Fascism. Global fascism. Chomsky, long a suspect figure and sort of the honorary chair of political gate-keeping emeritus, openly and none too timidly advises fascism as perhaps (!) the solution to “getting things done”. As in, the environmental crises — let’s use that term for now — is dire and suddenly (as they say in Hollywood story conferences) there is *a clock on it*. Meaning there is exactly no time to spare. In fact, it’s too late. Etc. I read recently a headline that said insects were going extinct. That struck me as, I don’t know, unlikely on the face of it. And sure enough it was a pure sensationalized headline for a sensationalistic article. Bugs are the most diverse creatures on earth. There are more kinds of just one variety of wasp than there are kinds of mammals. And, yes, Monsanto is killing honey bees. And it’s pretty dire. But it’s not led to honey shortages yet, at least that I have noticed. But it has raised prices! And colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the result of a number of factors, including pesticides and fungicides, which among other things render bees susceptible to the Nosema ceranae parasite. Capitalism kills life. Socialism protects life. But in general the bugs are not going extinct in thirty years. Still, what is driving this apologia for fascism? And why would Chomsky equate fascism with ‘getting things done’? Socialism…as in Cuba, for example, gets things done. Ask earthquake survivors around the globe. Ask whose doctors are first on the scene. But the rehabilitation of fascism is gaining momentum.

Now, there is a clear necessity for western societies to change how they live. Just a ban on the manufacturing of plastics, or pliable plastics even, would do an enormous amount of good. But that means a lot of very big and rich plastic manufacturing businesses would go out of business. Hence there is no movement toward that. Instead you get The Green New Deal. And what, you might ask, is this going to really achieve?

Today’s climate emergency mobilization must be recognized for what it is: a strategically orchestrated campaign financed and managed by the world’s most powerful institutions – for the preservation of capitalism and global economic growth. This is the launch of a new growth industry in the Global South coupled with the creation of new and untapped markets. Leading up to this precipice, The B Team, the Open Society Foundation, Oxfam, and many others that serve as the human face of capitalism, have moved their offices or set up new divisions in both Africa and Latin America.
— Cory Morningstar and Forest Palmer, “Wrong Kind of Green”, Part IV

and…

the above plan and language mirrors that in the strategy document “Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement” being led by organizations whose affiliations with the Democrats, the Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez campaigns are publicly disclosed. Second, we must recognize that behind large institutions and media outlets such as Grist, branded as both “left” and “progressive”, are power structures subservient to capital. Grist CEO is Brady Walkinshaw. Prior to his role of CEO in 2017, Walkinshaw a former US State representative, worked as a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Before his tenure at the Gates Foundation, Walkinshaw, a Fulbright scholar of the US State Department, worked as a special assistant to the World Bank. Within the Grist board of directors is 350.org founder, Bill McKibben – defacto foot soldier for Bernie Sanders and the Democrats in general.

Read the entirety of the breakdown here….

The same fingerprints are always found. The Gates Foundation, 350.org, the US state department and an assortment of varied NGOs of the moment (all based in the West). Western capital is in transition phase. And riding along in the propaganda wing is a clear new focus on fascist iconography and symbol, and on metaphors of war and the military. Getting things done!!

The rehab of fascism is laying the groundwork for various states of emergency to come. Most will be given a token coat of green paint. The worst thing you can be…even worse than an apologist for Harvey Weinstein or something, is a climate denier. It has already superceded Conspiracy theorist as most toxic appellation available today. Pedophile, Conspiracy Theorist, and at the top…Climate Denier.

In a society in which public education is a shell of its former mediocre self, and one in which science is not much emphasized, it is amazing how many times I have had complex statistics and calculus quoted in regard to global warming or rising sea levels or methane bubbles etc. It has become a kind of incantatory recital of belief. And it is about shaming and stigmatizing. And about self righteousness. And again, the trouble with all this is that there IS a climate crisis. There is massive environmental decay and pollution. And there is, in the U.S. certainly, a crumbling material infrastructure. Clean water will be ever more of a problem. There is ample but very general evidence for all of this. But I am not a scientist. And I have to say I have a healthy suspicion of professional science overall. The planet is very very very complex. And again, I may have missed it, but where are the scientists pointing fingers at the military? I ask that one sincerely. I’d like to know. For there is one thing I do feel pretty confident about: And that is..the military produces pollution, kills sea life, poisons the ground and humans both. And on a massive massive massive scale. So why is that never a target do you suppose?

As a major turning point in the history of Europe, total war introduced mass violence into everyday life, ‘brutalized’ societies, and accustomed them to industrial massacres and anonymous mass death. As a nationalist political movement, fascism grew out from this trauma. Mosse sees it as a product of the ‘nationalization of the masses’ that was powerfully accelerated during the war. In fact, anti-communism characterized fascism from the beginning to the end of its historical trajectory. It was a militant, radical, aggressive anti-communism that transformed the nationalist ‘civil religion’ into a ‘crusade’ against the enemy.
— Enzo Traverso (The New Faces of Fascism)

The rehabilitation of fascism cannot find traction without a concomitant anti communist platform. And the spike in anti-communism has been acute. I wrote on my blog about Liam Neeson…

The normalizing of fascist mythology and sentiments preceded what is now open expressions of fascist ideology. And it appears in codes appropriate to the celebrity driven individuality of the Marvell Comix era of entertainment. Liam Neeson’s recent comments (as part of a marketing tour for his next film… a *revenge* thriller..{sic}) about having once wanted to find a black man to beat to death is a rather good example. There is no moral to Neeson’s story, interestingly, beyond it taking him a week, in his words, to figure out “what the fuck am I doing”. This is a form of white masculine bragging now. It’s another celebrity search for authenticity. Oh, he also was thrilled as a lad to listen to the speeches of Ian Paisley. Not much more is said about this beyond it inspired him to take up acting. So again the fascist rehabilitation is open. And again, there is a racist underpinning, as Paisley actively campaigned against the civil rights movement and organized gangs of club-carrying thugs to block pro civil rights protestors. The inherent acceptability of fascism. No celebrity A-list actor would ever admit to having been thrilled by the speeches of Fidel Castro.

When Trump said “Make America Great Again”, what he meant, of course, was make America white again. But not just white, but a fascist white. For the very idea of *greatness* resides in that exceptionalism that is connected at its roots to manifest destiny and slave owning. The appeal to a manufactured nostalgia of greatness is an appeal to a white hierarchical martial heroism that is today reflected in Marvel and DC comic super hero movies. And this rehabilitation is neo-colonial as well. Communism fought against the colonial European powers, while the US and western capital fought on the side of apartheid and colonial powers. Make America colonial again. Make America a land of plantations, again. Make it a land of *Indian killers*. All of this is running through popular culture today. The masculine panic of Liam Neeson is the same one, on a cruder level aesthetically, found at Trump rallies, but also found on Wall Street and in the industrial usage of escort services those brokers are known to indulge — and in fraternities at universities across the U.S. It is tied to a virulent misogyny. And it is, indeed, tied to Harvey Weinstein — though, problematically, it is also found in much of the lynch mob mania of #metoo.

…fascism comes to power in stages, beginning with attacks on the democratic rights of working people, the imprisonment of communists and trade unionists, hostility to national minorities and immigrants, and the gradual erosion of democratic institutions. It relies on its mass supporters, mostly from the middle class but also including workers and intellectuals, to carry out these policies. Once fascism has consolidated power, it begins to build up the fascist state and engages in expansionary imperialist wars. The terrorist dictatorship of finance capital is only fully established when all opposition has been outlawed and a fascist state machinery has been completely developed.
— Fabian Van Onzen, Monthly Review, February 2019

There is a constant drum beat that compares communism to fascism. And it has taken a quality of desperation. So insistent are the authors of this familiar trope of “totalitarian” societies ‘all being the same’ that it is sort of now in another phase that might be labeled *secondary conflations*. And it is important to observe the liberal and urban educated bourgeoisie and their emotional connectivity to Green ideas and policy. This is the collaborationist class Gramsci wrote about so trenchantly. But the level of emotional attachment and reaction to questions of Climate Change or Global Warming (and related environmental issues) needs to be explored a bit more.

For it is as if suddenly the bourgeoisie deeply “cares” about Nature and mother earth. About the planet, about saving mankind. The emotional responses one finds here are not only disproportionate to the specific issues that arise, but they are psychologically prophylactic mechanisms that seem to keep actual political analysis buried. There are knee jerk responses that look to stigmatize those now demonstrating insufficient environmental awareness. Those not invested enough, or in the right way, with Green policy. These are going to be the people who line up behind Ocasio Cortez and The Green New Deal. This outrage is almost never displayed against US bombing “errors” when, say, a wedding party is olbiterated and a half dozen children are killed. But maybe it’s a genuine personal fear. Maybe this is a class now afraid and that is a new experience for them.

What haunted them {the Frankfurt School thinkers} was the evidence, everywhere to be found in the Federal Republic of Germany to which Adorno returned in 1949, that the fascist era was being airbrushed from history, erased from collective memory in an act of repression. The fear was not only that it was being forgotten in itself, but that if not remembered, it was likely to resurface in unpredictable forms.
— Stuart Walton, “Theory from the Ruins”, Aeon Magazine 2017

The Democratic field is forming for the 2020 run at Trump. Think about who is running. I mean, let’s do a quick survey…very quick.

Bernie Sanders is another glaring example of the cognitive dissonance operating at the collective level. Sanders who famously referred to Hugo Chavez as “that dead communist dictator” was also the guy who demanded the Saudi’s “get their hands dirty”. One of the things that seems not to register on the public, both pro Sanders and contra Sanders, is that Bernie just isn’t very smart. He is not a particular fluid speaker nor does he do very well off script. But Bernie has never seen a defense contract he didn’t want a piece of. Never.

Paul Street wrote back in 2015 {from an article in 2017}….

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (“I”-VT) is not the independent left politician many progressives claim he is. He’s a Democratic Party company man. That has been clear from his long Congressional record of voting with the neoliberal, dollar-drenched Democrats and accepting their seniority-based committee assignments.1

But Bernie is, again, not in it to win (I don’t think). He is too well fitted to his one specific role; sheepdog for the DNC. But Beto O’Rourke, another youthful Democratic pseudo leftist who, like AOC is telegenic and comely — his hair alone is pure Madison Avenue stuff. Vote for the hair! Which might be a useful slogan for O’Rourke because his voting record is appalling and deeply reactionary. But Beto is looking to find traction as the new JFK or RFK, and is in it to win.

O’Rourke has also gone out of his way to praise Israel and promise fidelity to “our shared values”. None of this is any sort of surprise. At some point the public has to learn being a Democrat means being pro war and an Imperialist.

The Fasci di combattimento were born in the aftermath of the war. They were imbued with the petit-bourgeois character of the various veterans associations which arose at that time.

Due to their trenchant opposition to the socialist movement they obtained the support of the capitalists and the authorities. This aspect of the Fasci was inherited in part from the conflict between the Socialist Party and the ‘interventionist’ associations during the war years.

They emerged during the same period when the rural landowners were feeling the need to create a White Guard to tackle the growing workers’ organisations. The gangs that were already organised and armed by the big landowners soon adopted the label Fasci for themselves too. With their subsequent development, these gangs would acquire their own distinct character – as a White Guard of capitalism against the class organs of the proletariat.

Fascism still conserves this trait of its origins. But until very recently, the fervour of the armed offensive kept a lid on the tensions between the urban cadre – who are predominantly petit-bourgeois, orientated on parliament, and ‘collaborationist’ – and the rural cadre, which consist of the big and medium landowners and their tenant farmers.”
— Antonio Gramsci, The Two Fascisms, 1921

Now O’Rourke is another supporter of the Green New Deal. Quelle surprise.

Kamala Harris is the former DA from San Francisco, and later AD for the state. She used to date (his words) Willie Brown. And she is married to attorney Doug Emhoff, formerly of Venable LLP — a firm whose lawyers included Asa Hutchinson (former Governor of Arkansas, former Undersecretary of Homeland Security and former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration). Also a number of former state’s ADs and a couple other governors (John Marhsall Butler for one). Just sayin’. Kamala no doubt has the deepest rolodex of anyone who has so far declared (unless you count Gentlemen Joe Biden, and I don’t because Joe has almost ZERO chance to go anywhere in this thing).

Margaret Kimberley wrote of Harris….

One of her more disgraceful policies was to victim shame black mothers for their children’s school truancy. They were fined and when most of them could not pay, were put in jail and separated from their children.This action is the epitome of modern day chattel slavery and Harris cannot be given a pass.{ } Harris has spent her career locking up Black and brown people. She should not be allowed to shake hands, kiss babies or walk into black churches without being taken to task.2

Kirsten Gillibrand will likely declare. A favorite daughter of Wall Street and the tobacco industry Gillibrand is heavily entrenched in the bowels of the DNC. She once authored a bill that would criminalize ‘boycotts’ by individuals or groups seeking to express disapproval of Israel. Gillibrand’s stance against protests and ‘boycotts’ included her co-sponsoring the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S 720). Her parents are both attorneys. She attended Dartmouth and her maternal grandmother Polly Noonan was a key player in Estes Cornings powerful political machine in Albany from the 40s through the mid-80s. One of the last great political machines in the United States, in fact.

Tulsi Gabbard is the *identity* candidate. A pacific islander, and a Hindu. On the plus side she spoke positively about US enemies like Assad… except for when she was, you know, calling him a brutal dictator. And she was at least mildly respectful of the DPRK. Sort of. And she was right about the murder, by the US, of Gaddafi. But in all this she is still on the side of the Imperialist overlords. In a sense, Gabbard is the new Obama. The comprador candidate. Oh, and she is an aggressive supporter of Israel and highly critical of the BDS. She is the rational Imperialist. I know it’s a buzz kill to point out all these things, but she also happens to be a major in the US Army, a member of the Hawaiian National Guard, and significantly, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She also did TWO tours in Iraq. Not one, but two. Meaning she volunteered to go back and do it again. She has also praised the BJP party in India, and its neo-fascist president. Richard Spencer admires her (sic) for what that is worth. And Gabbard also signed to enforce sanctions on Iran and Russia. But so bankrupt is the electoral landscape in the U.S., that Gabbard is routinely described as a radical voice.

The worker, the peasant, who for years has hated the fascism that oppresses him believes it necessary, in order to bring it down, to ally himself with the liberal bourgeoisie, to support those who in the past, when they were in power, supported and armed fascism against the workers and peasants, and who just a few months ago formed a sole bloc with fascism and shared in the responsibility for its crimes. And this is how the question of the liquidation of fascism is posed? No! The liquidation of fascism must be the liquidation of the bourgeoisie that created it.
— Antonio Gramsci, Neither Fascism nor Liberalism: Sovietism! 1924

The Green New Deal is the fig leaf that provides material for this manufacturing of a new fascist narrative. The green fascism of these new ‘products’ from the Democratic Party laboratories is pretty much in line with what Bill Clinton ushered in and what Obama sort of perfected.

There is no potential for change in electoral movements in the U.S. That system is closed. Any radical third party would be quickly stopped, on that Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi both agree. And the idea of an American gilets jaunes (or Occupy redux) would likely lack both leadership and, more importantly perhaps, a narrative. The disaffected in the U.S. have no way to imagine an end to the system that oppresses them. And this is partly where the Soviet Union is so acutely missed. But one senses this is also why Maduro and Venezuela must be shut down. Sure oil, that’s a nice bonus, but the threat is, even if partly unconscious for the ruling class, an ideology where the slaves revolt. Same as Milosevic had to go. Same as they tried for decades to eliminate Fidel. Independence is not tolerated.

Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre noted (for France) that for what they call the *post fascist* ….“The ‘bad’ people— the immigrants, the Muslims and Blacks of the suburbs, veiled women, junkies, and the marginal—merge together with members of the leisure classes who have adopted liberal mores: feminists, the gay-friendly, anti-racists, environmentalists, and defenders of immigrants’ rights. Finally, the ‘good’ people of the postfascist imagination are nationalist, anti-feminist, homophobic, xenophobic, and nourish a clear hostility toward ecology, modern art, and intellectualism.
— Quoted by Enzo Traverso, Vers l’extrême: Extension des domaines de la droite, Paris: Editions Dehors, 2014; Gérard Mauger, ‘Mythologies: le “beauf” et le “bobo”

And here is also where Green issues become a kind of fulcrum around which the NGOs and marketing firms fully understand the ambivalences. The sudden compassion about the Earth and Global Warming is a narrative that is being appropriated very rapidly right now. For the bourgeoisie ‘going green’ is a cause they can get behind, and one that costs them almost nothing. It also provides cover for their new tough love of the underclass (meaning they get to be more openly racist and contemptuous of the poor). The educated urban liberal is borrowing heavily from the Health Food Co-op back room.

For the right, bad people are those with environmental concerns; i.e., the affluent urban liberal who is experienced as the class looking to take away the working class and poor’s small pleasures. First all those *sin* taxes, on tobacco and booze, and then restrictions on muscle cars, and all sort of stuff is given a crude story line by folks like Steven Bannon. Good people are those who deny any of this environmental stuff. Thereby in their Evangelical piety the flyover state working poor (and unemployed) justify their ignorance and more to the point, can stop having to wrestle with complicated and often ambivalent ideas to which a destroyed public education system never exposed them.

Because of this mutual disconnect, the emotional cathexis of the liberal educated classes in both Europe and the U.S. identify with their ‘superior’ concerns, their belief in science, which they understand no better than those sitting in the seats at NASCAR races, but who are encouraged to practice what they see as “sober” thinking, “tough love”, and “responsible” telling of hard truths. What this means is they increasingly are now finding permission to express more openly what they have kept silent about (cue Liam Neeson). And that is a virulent racism, but one now more tilted toward antisemitism, and most significantly Islamaphobia. The affluent bourgeois class is experiencing great relief in being given permission to vent their buried xenophobia. The Muslim is a structural replacement (though not really a replacement so much as an addition but in perception management terms it’s a replacement) for Jew in this new liberal antisemitism. It is not expressed in quite the same way as those in the flyover states, but it’s there all the same. And yet these classes recognize nothing of themselves in the other.

The idea of a healthy and prosperous Green New Deal (part and parcel of the fourth industrial revolution) for the world – is a lure to keep you believing in the system.
— Cory Morningstar (in conversation).

When Gramsci wrote of hegemony he never forgot that bourgeois rule, even when it advanced behind ‘mere’ coercion, still had physical violence as an option. The increased surveillance state and police militarization are linked, in the end, to policing of the inner cities (black and latino neighborhoods) and to US imperial policing and pacification of the global south.

But in looking at the narratives today, the ruling class and their collaborationist allies in the bourgeoisie, have refashioned environmental concerns so that its truth is always about protecting capital and capitalism while the narrative is about their own virtues. It’s an investment opportunity. Nothing more. And part of the problem (often a large part) is transferred to the victims of capital; the very poorest in the world, the very people who consume the least and pollute the least. This is the logic (and always has been) of eugenics and its contemporary trope “overpopulation”. And the cruelty and ruthlessness of the overpopulation meme is given a cosmetic make-over to resemble compassionate white saviour stories. The superior white expert come to stop the savages from having too many children.

To fix or at least manage, to some degree, the worst environmental problems will actually require drastic socialist programs. Not fascism as Chomsky suggests…or as Bernie or AOC or any of the rest of these capitalist sock puppets….but socialist. And nothing, NOTHING of any good is ever going come out of the Democratic Party. And nothing of any significance can happen via the US electoral theatre. The amount of energy wasted in endless debate about the virtues or “electability” (sic) of Elizabeth Warren vs Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris vs Tulsi Gabbard etc is breathtaking. Imagine that time spent on something useful. Like, oh, how to prevent more war and carnage. And how to create a sustainable form of human development.

Socialism, in its most radical form, is about substantive equality, community solidarity, and ecological sustainability; it is aimed at the unification—not simply division—of labor.

Once sustainable human development, rooted not in exchange values, but in use values and genuine human needs, comes to define historical advance, the future, which now seems closed, will open up in a myriad ways, allowing for entirely new, more qualitative, and collective forms of development. This can be seen in the kinds of needed practical measures that could be taken up, but which are completely excluded under the present mode of production. It is not physical impossibility, or lack of economic surplus, most of which is currently squandered, that stands in the way of the democratic control of investment, or the satisfaction of basic needs—clean air and water, food, clothing, housing, education, health care, transportation, and useful work—for all. It is not the shortage of technological know-how or of material means that prevents the necessary ecological conversion to more sustainable forms of energy.103 It is not some inherent division of humanity that obstructs the construction of a New International of workers and peoples directed against capitalism, imperialism, and war. All of this is within our reach, but requires pursuing a logic that runs counter to that of capitalism.
— John Bellemy Foster, Monthly Review, February 2019

  1. Counterpunch, April 2017.
  2. Black Agenda Report, January 2019.

The Movement And The 2020 Elections

The political system in the United States is a plutocracy, one that works for the benefit of the wealthy, not the people. Although we face growing crises on multiple fronts – economic insecurity, a violent and racist state, environmental devastation, never-ending wars and more – neither of the Wall Street-funded political parties will take action to respond. Instead, they are helping the rich get richer.

The wealth divide has gotten so severe that three people have more wealth than the bottom 50% of people in the country. Without the support of the rich, it is nearly impossible to compete in elections. In 2016, more than $6.5 billion was spent on the federal elections, a record that will surely be broken in 2020. More than half that money came from less than 400 people, from fewer than 150 families.

People are aware of this corruption and are leaving the two Wall Street parties. According to the census, 21.4% of people do not register to vote, and in 2018, less than a majority of registered voters voted. According to Pew Research, independents (40% of voters) outnumber Democrats (30%) and Republicans (24%). The largest category of registered voters is non-voters. Yet, the media primarily covers those who run within the two parties, or billionaire independent candidates who do not represent the views of most people.

This raises a question for social movements: What can be done to advance our agenda over the next two years when attention will be devoted mostly to two parties and the presidential race?

Progressives Failed to Make the Democratic Party a Left-Progressive Party

People in the United States are trapped in an electoral system of two parties. Some progressives have tried — once again — to remake the Democratic Party into a people’s party.

We interviewed Nick Brana, a former top political organizer for the Sanders presidential campaign, on the Popular Resistance podcast, which will be aired Monday, about his analysis of the Democratic Party. Brana describes the efforts of progressives to push the party to the left over the past three years and how they were stopped at every turn. They tried to:

  • Change the Democratic Party Platform: The platform is nonbinding and meaningless but even so, the Party scrapped the platform passed by the delegates the following year and replaced it with a more conservative one called the “Better Deal.”
  • Replace the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair. They discovered the chair is picked by the DNC, which is made up of corporate lobbyists, consultants, and superdelegates, who picked Hillary Clinton’s candidate Tom Perez, over Rep. Keith Ellison, former co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.
  • Replace the DNC membership with grassroots activists. Instead, at the DNC’s  2017 fall meeting, the Party purged progressives from the DNC, making it more corporate and elitist.
  • Fix the Presidential primary process after it was disclosed that the DNC weighted the scale in favor of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The Democrats rigged the Rules Commission to accomplish the opposite; i.e., kept closed primaries to shut out progressive independent voters, kept joint fundraising agreements between the DNC and presidential campaigns, slashed the number of states that hold caucuses, which favor progressive candidates, and refused to eliminate superdelegates, moving them to the second ballot at the convention but reserving the right to force a second ballot if they choose.

Further cementing their power, Democrats added a “loyalty oath” which allows the DNC chair to unilaterally deny candidates access to the ballot if he deems the candidate has been insufficiently “faithful” to the Party during their life. And the DNC did nothing to remove corporate and billionaire money from the primary or the Party, ensuring Wall Street can continue purchasing its politicians.

The results of the 2018 election show the Blue Wave was really a Corporate Wave. Brana describes how only two progressives out of 435 members of Congress unseated House Democrats in all of 2018: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. When Pelosi was challenged as leader of the House Democrats, she was challenged from a right-wing Blue Dog Democrat, not a progressive Democrat, with many “progressives” including AOC and Rep. Jayapal speaking up for Pelosi’s progressive credentials.

In contrast to the failure of progressives, the militarists had a banner 2018 election. The 11 former intelligence officials and veterans were the largest groups of victorious Democratic challengers in Republican districts. Throughout the 2018 election cycle, Democratic Party leaders worked against progressive candidates, for instance pushing them to oppose Medicare for all.

This is an old story that each generation learns for itself: the Democratic Party cannot be remade into a people’s party. It has been a big business party from its founding as a slaveholders party in the early 1800s, when slaves were the most valuable “property” in the country, to its Wall Street funding today. Lance Selfa, in “The Democrats: A Critical History,” shows how the Democratic Party has consistently betrayed the needs of ordinary people while pursuing an agenda favorable to Wall Street and US imperialism. He shows how political movements from the union and workers movements to the civil rights movement to the antiwar movement, among others, have been betrayed and undermined by the Democratic Party.

Social Movements Must Be Independent of the Corporate Parties

The lesson is mass movements need to build their own party. The movement should not be distracted by the media and bi-partisan politicos who urge us to vote against what is necessary for the people and planet. At this time of crisis, we cannot settle for false non-solutions.

Howie Hawkins, one of the founders of the Green Party and the first candidate to campaign on a Green New Deal, describes, in From The Bottom Up: The Case For An Independent Left Party, how Trumpism is weakening as its rhetoric of economic populism has turned into extreme reactionary Republicanism for the millionaires and billionaires. He explains that Democrats are not the answer either, as “they won’t replace austerity capitalism and militaristic imperialism to which the Democratic Party is committed.”

The result, writes Hawkins, is we must commit ourselves “to build an independent, membership-based working-class party.” Even the New Deal-type reforms of Bernie Sanders “do not end the oppression, alienation, and disempowerment of working people” and do not stop “capitalism’s competitive drive for mindless growth that is devouring the environment and roasting the planet.”

Hawkins urges an ecosocialist party that creates economic democracy; i.e., social ownership of the means of production for democratic planning and allocation of economic surpluses as well as confronting the climate crisis. He explains socialism is a “movement of the working class acting for itself, independently, for its own freedom.”

He urges membership-based parties building from the local level that are independent of the two corporate-funded parties.  Local branches would educate people on issues to support a mass movement for transformational change. Hawkins is a long-time anti-racism activist. He became politically active as a teenager when he saw the mistreatment of the Mississippi Freedom Democrats, who elected sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer as their co-chair. He believes a left party must confront racial and ethnic tensions that have divided the working class throughout its history.

Hawkins points out the reasons why the time is ripe for this. Two-thirds of people are from the working class compared to one-third in 1900. The middle class (e.g. teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, technicians) holds progressive positions on policy issues creating super-majority support for critical issues on our agenda. The working and middle classes are better educated than ever. Over the last forty years, their living standards have declined, especially the younger cohort that is starting life in debt like no other generation. Finally, the environmental crisis is upon us and can no longer be ignored creating a decisive need for radical remaking of the economy.

Critical Issues To Educate And Mobilize Around

Popular Resistance identified a 16 point People’s Agenda for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.  Three issues on which we should focus our organizing over the next few years include:

National Improved Medicare For All: The transformation of healthcare in the US from an insurance-based market system to a national public health system is an urgent need with over 100,000 deaths annually that would not occur if we had a system like the UK or France, two-thirds of bankruptcies (more than 500,000 per year) are due to medical illness even though most of those who were bankrupted had insurance, 29 million people do not have health insurance and 87 million people are underinsured.

While many Democrats are supporting expanded and improved Medicare for all, including presidential candidates, the movement needs to push them to truly mean it and not to support fake solutions that use our language; e.g., Medicare for some (public options, Medicare buy-ins and reducing the age of Medicare). Winning Medicare for all will not only improve the health of everyone, it will be a great economic equalizer for the poor, elderly and communities of color. This is an issue we can win if we continue to educate and organize around it.

Join our Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign.

Enacting a Green New Deal. The Green New deal has been advocated for since 2006, first by Global Greens, then by Green Party candidates at the state level and then by Jill Stein in her two presidential runs. The issue is now part of the political agenda thanks to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She and Senator Ed Markey led the introduction of a framework for a Green New Deal, which is supported by more than 50 Democrats including many presidential candidates.

Their resolution is a framework that the movement needs to educate and organize to make into real legislation to urgently confront the climate crisis, which has been mishandled by successive US presidents. The movement must unite for a real Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal has the potential to not only confront the climate crisis by shifting to a carbon-free/nuclear-free energy economy but to also shift to a new economy that is fairer and provides economic security. Remaking energy so it serves the people, including socializing energy systems; e.g., public utilities, could also provide living wage jobs and strengthen worker’s rights. It will require the remaking of housing, which could include social housing for millions of people, a shift from agribusiness to regenerative agriculture and remaking finance to include public banks to pay for a Green New Deal. The Democratic leadership is already seeking to kill the Green New Deal, so the movement has its work cut out for it.

Stopping Wars and Ending US Empire: US empire is in decline but is still causing great destruction and chaos around the world. US militarism is expensive. The empire economy does not serve people, causing destabilization, death and mass migration abroad as well as austerity measures at home. Over the next decade, the movement has an opportunity to define how we end empire in the least destructive way possible.

As US dominance wanes, the US is escalating conflicts with other great powers. The US needs to end 15 years of failed wars in the Middle East and 18 years in Afghanistan. In Latin America, US continues to be regime change against governments that seek to represent the interests of their people especially in Venezuela where the threat of militarism is escalating, but also in Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba. The migrant issue being used by Trump to build a wall along the US-Mexican border is created by US policies in Central America. And, the US needs to stop the militarization of Africa and its neocolonial occupation by Africom.

Take action: Participate in the Feb. 23, 2019, international day of action against the US intervention in Venezuela and the “Hands-Off” national protest in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019.

There will also be actions around April 4, when NATO holds its 70th-anniversary meeting in Washington, DC, on the same day as the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and his Beyond Vietnam speech.

Join the Spring Actions against NATO in Washington, DC.

While the US lives in a mirage democracy with manipulated elections, there is a lot of work we can do to build a mass movement that changes the direction of the country. This includes building independent political parties to represent that movement in elections.