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A Green New Deal vs. Revolutionary Ecosocialism

Brad H

Admin
Lively debate on the SCNCC listserve on the Green New Deal. Here, Wayne Price responds to Richard Smith's critique/support for the GND, Price arguing for what he calls a "revolutionary libertarian ecosocialist" alternative to "state capitalism": A Green New Deal vs. Revolutionary Ecosocialism SCNCC website editors will be posting this and other articles on the topic - please consider contributing to the dialogue...
 
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The title alone makes me cringe. I would hate to see revolutionary ecosocialists cede the Green New Deal to liberals, despite whatever shortcomings this formulation may have. I know, my first response was "The New Deal was all about saving capitalism, we want to replace it!" But to the average worker "Green New Deal" has instant meaning and appeal. It's a great slogan. Let's consider how a new deal could suggest a new social contract between the individual and society. I don't think this article is going to convince anyone who doesn't already accept that old anarchist axiom, states are always bad, therefore putting demands on them is impossible. This is far too simplistic, in my opinion. We should be distinguishing between “the state” as a monopoly over force for class domination, and “government” which could include any kind of democratic system of regulation. I agree that workers’ self-management needs to be elevated in any kind of comprehensive program. In most cases it is completely absent. But how would workers exercise their power to carry out a serious plan to address climate change without something resembling government? I just don’t see neighborhood assemblies and workplace councils wresting capital away from the capitalists, coordinating resources, or even avoiding their own political conflicts and hierarchies to lead an ecosocialist transformation on a global scale. We need answers to the threat of corporate and state power beyond merely wishing for working class militancy. Presenting a platform and running candidates to demand it doesn't require any particular compromise with the state. The Green New Deal could challenge core tenets of capitalism and point to a transition to ecosocialism, if that's how we build it.
 

Shanelle

Member
Matthew, I'm wondering if you can repost your criticisms against some anarchist organizations, because some of these organizations are indeed hierarchical.
 

Ted F

Admin
I agree completely with Matthew's point that Green New Deal has "instant meaning and appeal." If we recognize from the outset that the contest over what sort of Green New Deal is needed provides us with an opportunity for a wide ranging class struggle over the future of our society and protection of the planet, we can make the most of the slogan's instant popularity. The important thing is for the climate movement to get beyond its image, on the one hand, of relentlessly talking about the grim future and, on the other hand, appearing to offer a grim solution that reads as austerity and loss of jobs. GND offers a meme that deflates the jobs versus environment argument that is a major ideological trope of the capitalist of the class. People like GND because it suggests a big change. They know it means relief for working people. They know it aims to avert the horror of what's happening to the Earth. Beyond that, it's up to us. My SCNCC article The Green New Deal Goes Viral; What's Next Is Up to Us is already being surpassed by developments, but it gives some idea of how I will be fighting within DSA for a major turn towards ecosocialism using the GND as an overall frame for the organization's work. One thought I shared in that article is: "Along with the Sunrise Movement, we get to ask apologists for the capitalist system, 'What is your plan?' and measure their answers against what science tells us must be done."

Organize!
 

David J

Member
I agree Mathew, steering between the shoals of the liberal capitalist state and the anarchist distrust of any and all states will be tricky. And it isn't as though we have the luxury of unlimited time to "create the new in the shell of the old" and then hope that state withers away. In this sense we seek a rupture. I also think your distinction between the state form and government in general (or governance) is critical. We should always be wary of the Leviathan but the scale of the crisis requires a commensurate level of power that can be employed and it is the level of direct participation that would give it legitimacy.

If I understand Richard's argument, it is that by making an impossible demand of the liberal capitalist "democratic" state end economic growth), one generally accepted as necessary for survival, we undermine the capitalist state's legitimacy AT THE SAME TIME we build constituent power in the streets and workplaces. The state's fealty to Capital is exposed and the liberal conceit of the "neutral state" demolished. Also exposed is the Market's irrationality and impotence.

In my own theorizing, this Event, together with the unfolding effects of warming precipitates the rupture, accelerates the unravelling and creates an aporia which we might fill with rational planning and a collective response. Hopefully. With some luck. Hail Mary.

There is my abbreviated version of how a radical Green New Deal, one calling for nationalization and de-growth, might help usher in revolutionary ecosocialism.
 

Shanelle

Member
Fewer jobs would be fine, if we aim for a universal basic income. This is better than calling for more jobs and more work because it would allow people to do things that are meaningful to them instead of working for a boss.
 
Fewer jobs would be fine, if we aim for a universal basic income. This is better than calling for more jobs and more work because it would allow people to do things that are meaningful to them instead of working for a boss.
So are you proposing that the rest of us should work for bosses producing the food you eat, the house you liven in, the car you drive, while you receive a universal basic income so you can do meaningful things? Or are you proposing that no one work to produce what we need so that everyone can play all the time? I'm curious Shanelle, do you have a job? Or do you live on a trust fund?
 

Shanelle

Member
Actually, I do grow my own food, which I've discussed many times on the list. At times in 100-degree weather. And yes, I support a universal basic income, as does David Graeber. If you think a UBI is only for spoiled brats, then you are fucking lost.
 

David J

Member
The jobs question does point to another rift with liberal GND, wherein promises are made that the US economy will see no loss of jobs or economic growth. This in an effort to sell to public already exhausted by austerity (see Yellow Vests) and especially organized labor. Retrenchment is blasphemy and never any mention of re-distribution, within nations or globally, or any climate justice language. Therefore, trying to find common ground requires debating this fundamental gap.
 
Actually, I do grow my own food, which I've discussed many times on the list. At times in 100-degree weather. And yes, I support a universal basic income, as does David Graeber. If you think a UBI is only for spoiled brats, then you are fucking lost.
You didn't answer my question. Do you have a real job that you get paid for doing?
 
The jobs question does point to another rift with liberal GND, wherein promises are made that the US economy will see no loss of jobs or economic growth. This in an effort to sell to public already exhausted by austerity (see Yellow Vests) and especially organized labor. Retrenchment is blasphemy and never any mention of re-distribution, within nations or globally, or any climate justice language. Therefore, trying to find common ground requires debating this fundamental gap.
UBI is a non-starter in my view. Rightly or wrongly, it will be viewed as welfare. What people want is honest work, a job that they can feel good about doing and one that pays them well. That's why full employment, jobs for all, is a better approach. And since any realistic decarbonization is going to require shutting down and retrenching whole slabs of industries, then someone, I argue government, is going to have to provide those jobs or workers will never support closing down or retrenching companies we need to close/retrench to save our children and theirs.
 

David J

Member
How do we imagine full employment globally, with everyone being well paid, where the resulting production and consumption doesn't overwhelm the ecological base? If we make things that last longer and are more useful, couldn't we translate productivity gains into more leisure? Isn't that a selling point for ecosocialism? Is this chicken and egg, figuring out timing? By the way, wondering are you considering running for DSA EcoSoc steering commitee?
 
I completely agree and have argued that point myself (as in my critique of Herman Daly's defense of the market organization of production:
http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue53/Smith53.pdf and in my six theses article: Six Theses on Saving the Planet). We do want to reduce the amount of unpleasant but necessary work, and also strive to make the work we do as interesting and rewarding as possible instead of, with capitalism, just turning us into machine minders. But you're right, we also want to have more leisure, relaxation, more time to develop ourselves in non-paying pursuits. So it's true, we do have a hard row to hoe. We have to argue against growth but also for full employment. I think the only way we can do both is to call for replacement low-carbon jobs with the same pay and benefits. At least that's the only way we can win workers to see the need for radical regrowth of many industries. If they don't have job guarantees they have no choice but to fight to keep oil wells pumping, auto plants cranking out more redundant gas hogs, and so on. No, I'm not running for office in DSA. I have to finish my book on China's environmental crisis which is way overdue but nearly done.
 

Shanelle

Member
I think jobs vs. the environment is real, and work is forced labor. By shortening the workweek and supporting a UBI, people can spend their free time developing new skills, improving their communities, or they can be lazy, if they choose to be. As Paul Lafargue did, I support the right to be lazy.

And, as Bertrand Russell pointed out, "immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous."

People can still do things without being forced to do them. We can't make assumptions about how people would choose to spend their free time.

As a fellow anarchist pointed out in a meeting recently, this fight for some of us is not about saving the world. It's about creating a supportive environment, a better society, and total liberation.

For more on jobs vs. the environment, people can also check out Kristine Mattis's work, the socialist professor of environmental studies. These were written years ago but still worth the read:

More Jobs are Not the Solution; the Earth Needs Fewer

Delusion and Denial Part 1: Work, Jobs, Careerism, Charity
 
I think jobs vs. the environment is real, and work is forced labor.
This doesn't make sense to me. If all work is forced labor, what do you call free labor? I don't wash my own dishes, for example, because I think it's fun.

Fewer jobs would be fine, if we aim for a universal basic income. This is better than calling for more jobs and more work because it would allow people to do things that are meaningful to them instead of working for a boss.
There's a whole debate over Universal Basic Income vs. Federal Jobs Guarantee. They don't seem mutually exclusive to me. They should be part of an extensive platform, including a shorter work week and earlier retirement age.
 

Shanelle

Member
Washing your dishes is not the same thing as working for a boss for a paycheck for a set number of hours each week. Washing your dishes, cleaning your house, growing food is just you doing things. It's not a job.

On your point about universal basic income and federal jobs guarantee, I am definitely for a universal basic income and for cutting the workweek, because I think it would help lower emissions and also give people a chance to have a little more freedom.
 

Shanelle

Member
One thing I should add is that I do support wages for housework, and I hope one thing we can all agree on is the need to abolish wage slavery.

And I I hope people can at least aim for doing away with forced labor (which would probably be even more difficult than doing away with capitalism).
 

Shanelle

Member
This is infantile anarchism.
In response to what you wrote, Richard,

Since this is an ecosocialist forum where people discuss things related to ecosocialism, I would say it is not an appropriate place to inquire about my personal life (or anybody else's, for that matter). If I work for a living or if I live on a trust fund is absolutely none of your business. I don't live on a trust fund and I also don't see what that has to do with anything that's being discussed on here.
 
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