The Green New Deal narrative risks reproducing the hegemonic ideology of capitalist growth, which has created the problem of climate change in the first place.
You are here
Labor / Economics
Stories about Labor and Economics.
The ITUC wants to believe that a “democratic governance” integrating the “just transition” would open up “new opportunities,” that it would create massively “green jobs,” good and “decent.” This is wishful thinking. Capital invested in the “energy transition” in no way derogates from the ruthless capitalist offensive against wages, working conditions and trade unions. Germany is at the forefront of both renewable energy and expanding an underclass of poor workers. In many countries, governments use ecology to dismantle union strongholds in traditional sectors.
Developing a genuine trade union alternative to the class collaboration policy of the ITUC leadership is of strategic importance. The working class occupies a decisive position in industry and services. Without its active participation, an anti-productivist transformation of the economy will remain impossible. But how to win workers to the struggle for the defence of the environment? That is the question. The answer is difficult. All the more difficult because the balance of power is deteriorating and the poison of division is spreading in the working class.
There is an old saying that the economy is too simple for economists to understand. There is plenty of evidence of this all around. After all, almost no economists could see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which gave us the great recession. Back in the stock bubble days of the late 1990s, leading economists in both political parties wanted to put Social Security money in the stock market based on assumptions of returns which were at the least incredibly implausible, if not altogether impossible.
Richard Seymour points out that “To me, it’s straightforward. Class is a social relationship that is structured by race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and a whole range of other determinations. Race is the modality in which millions of people inhabit their class experience. Their “identity politics” will often be the precise way in which they fight a class struggle.”
I think that Seymour is correct.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 70 on December 10. Governments and civil society organizations around the world commemorated the day with a range of activities.
Over the years, the Declaration has been a global beacon for Africans fighting against colonialism and for inclusive economic equality and sustainable development. Its provisions stand as aspirational goals for nations, and standards that nations are duty-bound to uphold and promote.
Speaking of Capitalism in America and in Europe we first have to be precise about two things. First, what do we mean by countries, by nations such as those in the Americas or those here in Europe? And, second, what do we mean by capitalism? So if we can specify what we mean by these two things, we can reason about the difference in how capitalism relates to the different places.
One of the core claims of degrowth economics is that by restoring public services and expanding the commons, people will be able to access the goods that they need to live well without needing high levels of income.
The “green new deal” appears to have several meanings. It has been used by mainstream neoliberal politicians to describe an investment program, operated completely through markets, that would shift the economy away from fossil fuels. The left-wing politicians you mention see the “green new deal” as a program of state infrastructure investment, a mobilization of resources on the scale of a war effort.
Whether such a war-type mobilization would ever be implemented in any significant capitalist country remains to be seen. The political scientists Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright suggest in their book Climate Leviathan that there could be an international agreement between the US, China and others that would undertake such spending, but very much in the strongest countries’ neo-imperial interests, and with a big dose of geoengineering. Obviously the left politicians’ perspectives are quite different.
My mother’s father was a North Dakota postal employee, so on Christmas Eve, she never knew when he would get home. He was determined to keep working, my mom would tell us, “until every Christmas package that could be delivered would be delivered.” He started working for the Postal Service in 1911, and family lore has it that he sometimes had to trudge through the snow on horseback to deliver the mail.
Climate change is clearly a pressing concern for the majority of working-class people. But with 71% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from 100 corporations, capitalism presents a fundamental barrier to solving the problem. After all, you can't control what you don't own.
Under capitalism, production is unplanned, driven by the demands of profit. Only on the basis of public ownership of the major monopolies, with democratic workers' control and management, would it be possible to begin the work of tackling climate change.