Green Strategy: Building the movement to stop climate change
Greening Marxism. | EcoSocialist Horizons

The following is an excerpt from Marc Brodine’s new book, Green Strategy: Path to Fundamental Transformation, available from International Publishers.

The key to creating fundamental change is to create a movement broad enough, diverse enough, powerful enough, and sophisticated enough to embrace billions of people the world over.

We can confidently predict that the environmental movement will grow—in size, sophistication, importance, and political impact; that it will develop alliances with other movements; and that it will grow in strength (a combination of all those factors). We can confidently predict that there will be more innovation and experimentation with improving technology to address climate change and our energy needs.

We have reason for hope, to have optimism in the face of horrifying news. We have hope due to the response to our rapidly changing reality and in response to our growing knowledge. Billions of people are moving into motion on climate change—in electoral struggles, street actions, mass demonstrations, civil disobedience, changes in personal habits, changes in public opinion, in concern for future generations.

The strongest reason for hope is that billions of people will take action to preserve their own future and the future natural world for their children, grandchildren, and future generations. This movement is the only force capable of creating fundamental economic, political, environmental, and social change on the scale humanity needs. The growing movements are in the process of learning how to fight for that.

Approaches that blame people fail to address the underlying causes of global warming. Few people, in any country, have or had much to do with the decisions that cause rapidly-developing environmental crises. Those decisions were private decisions, made by capitalists and their managers. As long as that continues to be the case, efforts to slow global warming and solve other environmental problems will fall far short of the fundamental transformations needed.

Most discussions in the mainstream media about global climate change and other serious environmental challenges are limited. The problems are seen only as problems of human interaction with natural systems (which they are) or as problems in need of technological solutions (which they are). But little is done to connect our environmental challenges to our economic and social systems.

Marc Brodine’s new book, Green Strategy, focuses on how to build a massive worldwide movement to create fundamental change, the only way to solve our environmental crises. Addressing the problems of our time by linking environmental issues to other struggles, Green Strategy argues that allied social and political movements can transform our politics and our economy—and save the world. Order the book  from International Publishers.

In a private property system, when we collectively face problems that need collective solutions (and it doesn’t get much bigger or more collective than global climate change, both on the problem side and on the required solution side), the system hampers efforts to fix the problems. Any efforts at partial solutions very quickly run into private property rights and private decision-making about production, land use, resources, waste disposal, and investment. We also run into the limits of capitalist-funded political systems and capitalist-oriented legal systems which privilege private property rights.

All humanity is headed for serious adjustments, both planned and involuntary, which are necessary to recalibrate the balance between people and the natural world on which we depend. Taking steps to lower the human population growth rate on the planet at the same time as we take steps to change our agricultural, industrial, and distribution processes can provide positive synchronicity and reinforce positive benefits. If we wait until nature does it to us, most of the synchronicity will impose negative impacts on human life.

The earth is a series of linked systems, a series of gigantic feedback loops. We can’t look at the systems one at a time, separate from each other, not if we want or need to develop a full understanding. We can’t separate humans out of natural systems. We need to look at problems from many angles, and not only in linear ways; we need to understand that qualitative changes happen—leaps to a new state, “tipping points” in environmental jargon. We have to understand the world as a place of constant change, as systems and networks of interlocked processes which react with and upon each other.

The reality is that environmental crises and environmental challenges will only occupy a larger and larger share of the public space, will only grow to play an ever-larger role in policy disputes, in electoral campaigns, in demonstrations and movements, in education, and in many aspects of our economies. Participating in environmental struggles is an essential part of what must be done. But our whole movement will be stronger, more prepared for the long haul, if we see them in the context of the whole strategic path, if we find ways to connect each piece of the struggle with the broader, overarching movement and change we need.

People’s World REVIEW: Green Strategy

The earth will find a new balance; nature will survive. The question is, “What will be the impact on humanity?” In other words, we have created this set of problems ourselves. If we want to improve life for ourselves, we’d better change how we operate and change in fundamental ways.

A dystopian nightmare is headed our way: massive droughts, floods, rising seas, ocean acidification, decreasing agricultural yields, rising food prices, more climate refugees, more extreme weather, more extreme forest fires, melting permafrost releasing carbon dioxide and methane, and in the process destroying houses, roads, and other infrastructure, and more.

Taking action is part of what will lead to more knowledge. Some political commentators on the right argue that because we don’t know everything, that means we don’t know anything, or at least not enough to begin taking action. However, not taking action leaves our knowledge in an unformed, abstract state.

We must meet many challenges on many fronts to address the imbalance between how humans create the energy which enables developed human existence on the one hand, and the needs of nature upon which humanity depends in even more fundamental ways. We need water and air—there are no other “products” which can be substituted if these become dangerously polluted with toxic substances. If we don’t want a nightmare sci-fi scenario, the world needs to take drastic action now.

There is hope. If we create ways to transform our relationship to nature by changing our social and economic systems, we may be able to adapt and create a new ecology that will enable our species to continue. Otherwise, we will be acted upon. We will be subjected to the often-brutal workings of climate change and natural selection.

Environmental change doesn’t and won’t happen just because it “should,” just because humanity needs such change. Environmental change requires organized social forces to push for and create such change. Fundamental change requires class and mass struggles, alongside scientific, technological, and educational work. It is not enough to understand environmental problems and their causes, we must change our industrial, agricultural, energy, and transportation systems; we must change our economic, taxation, and financial systems. We must deepen our understanding of political processes and coalition-building in order to create the political force able to make the necessary changes.

The potential of looming environmental catastrophe isn’t a single problem with a simple solution. The climate crisis, excessive garbage and toxic waste, an increasing list of endangered species, pollution and toxic chemicals in the air, water, soil, and in our food, our workplaces, and our homes, are among the myriad problems we face.

The real question is: Will we continue to force these natural systems to work together against humanity?

The collective problems of humanity require the collective thinking and action of humanity. That is part of what democracy is about, including real economic democracy: the mobilization of our collective intelligence, ability, and activity to solve our shared problems and fulfill our shared needs. We need to frame our strategy as part of the fight for more complete democracy—in politics, economics, and the rest of society.

People and Planet Before Profits: Members of the Communist Party USA on the march in Los Angeles. | Photo courtesy of CPUSA

The key necessity for making these changes happen is a worldwide environmental movement with a broad strategy with the ultimate aim of creating fundamental transformations. A mass movement that allies itself with other progressive movements of workers, women, youth, immigrants, progressive politicians, scientists, and others. Building such a movement, much broader than what we’ve seen thus far, will help reach a tipping point. Only such a movement will defeat the deniers and reactionaries, who are only interested in protecting their short-term profits, and the right-wing politicians who serve them. That defeat will open the way to creating solutions, winning victories, and setting the stage for even more fundamental transformation.

The active involvement of billions of people worldwide in creating the political power to institute change against the resistance of the capitalist class and the inertia of the system is the hope of humankind, the possibility of a better world, a better future for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren.

We must reach an environmental movement tipping point, one that mobilizes changing public opinion, public campaigns for changes in personal habits, that utilizes every available field of struggle from online petitions to mass marches to legislative and legal struggles to mass civil disobedience to campaigns to shame corporations and harm their public image to divestment campaigns to international treaties to technological fixes to transforming our energy and industrial and agricultural practices—all that and more is needed. Reaching this transformation of public consciousness through agitation, education, and mobilization, combined with institution and organization building—that is what will lead to the essential environmental movement tipping point.

***

We need socialism, but that’s not enough.

Real existing socialism has had both environmental successes and failures. Our definition of the “greatest good” must not be the greatest amount of material goods. Instead, we must focus on improving the living and health standards of all humanity while facilitating the continual reproduction and restoration of the natural conditions which we need to survive. We can’t have a healthy humanity without a healthy natural world.

Unlike some so-called “deep ecologists” who argue for ignoring human needs to let nature triumph, and unlike limited socialist thinking based on fallacious assumptions of “man’s triumph over nature,” we need a rounded, all-sided, in-depth understanding of the interrelationships between human and natural systems. Our ecological crises will be solved not only by direct environmental struggles but also by uniting them with all struggles against capitalism’s exploitation of nature and labor.

Socialism is crucial to the environmental, industrial, agricultural, and distribution changes we need to make, but by itself that won’t be enough. We need to integrate socialist economics with environmental science. When Marx and Engels were developing their theories, they paid great attention to the latest in scientific discoveries and research, but science has developed extensively since then, and human impact on the environment has worsened significantly. Our new reality must be integrated with our understanding of social and economic processes.

In order to achieve the changes that we need in the world, we need a comprehensive, long-range strategy for building a movement capable of creating those changes.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marc Brodine
Marc Brodine

Marc Brodine is Chair of the Washington State CPUSA. A former AFSCME member and local officer, he is currently an artist and guitar player. Marc writes on environmental issues and answers many web site questions.

Marc is the author of an extended essay on Marxist philosophy and the environment, titled Dialetics of Climate Change

 

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