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Featured Can the just transition movement survive its mainstream adoption?

Ted F

Samantha M. Harvey has written an interesting article published by Earth Island Journal on the danger that "just transition" is becoming another buzzword in the discourse of mainstream environmentalists and their philanthropic sponsors. As "just transition" is becoming a popular term among climate and environmental activists who recognize the need for broader social change, Harvey identifies the threat that pro-capitalist forces will take the term as their own and deprive it of its original content, in principles of bottom-up community leadership, cultural inclusion, food sovereignty, and localized economies.

Here's the link to Harvey's article.

What do you think? Is "just transition" a phrase that is destined to lose whatever bite it originally had? Does it make sense for ecosocialists to use the term as a way to introduce basic socialist ideas in forums where an explicit call for socialism may court reflexive rejection? How useful is the term in combatting narrow climate and environmental politics?

David J

I find the term disingenous; it promises something that cannot be delivered. It should be clear by now that the dream of "capitalism with a human face" is just that, an untenable fantasy. The "social justice" movement has always disavowed this reality in the name of "coalition building" and look where it is now. The most militant section of the French labor unions can no longer win protections; what's left of US labor will soon be thrown under the bus while those "just transition" NGOs shrug.
I have always felt it is condescending to avoid explaining a radical critique with working class folks, to explain away their political ignorance and confusion as "a conservative steak". They have been colonized, plain and simple. Confront that.
As someone who has been a laborer my whole life in a very conservative community, I believe it is better to be honest about the crisis (in plain terms) and the pain that can be expected during industrial retrenchment. People get it; they would prefer to keep acting as if they didn't, but they will respect the brutal honesty.
Everyone wants a revolution, but no one wants THE revolution. Unfortunately, time has run out and we need to start using the language and thinking it through. Ecosocialism or barbarism.

David Klein

Amen. How about a "just transition away from capitalism"for a possible buzz-phrase? Could the liberals and NGOs absorb that one into their capitalist group-think vocabulary?

David J

Almost as problematic, perhaps, is the tendency for socialists to place climate change last on their list of issues. Almost as an after thought. I believe this stems from the fact that it is no easy matter coming up with "policy" solutions within the current power structure, which many seem intent on reforming. So the issue is deferred and folks like us left out on the fringe. Like our colleague Richard Smith, I am attempting to work with the DSA to get climate placed higher on their agenda, but they have clearly established other strategic goals.