The Crisis is Capitalism

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Life under the Trump regime is, at times, almost surreal. Every day seems to bring a new Twitter tirade, White House squabble, or scandal. Never in my life can I recall reading in the newspaper that the secretary of state openly referred to the president as a “fucking moron.”

It is almost like something straight out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Consider this characteristically irrational exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Many people have remarked that just keeping up with the daily news is both exhausting and depressing. The headline of the lead editorial in the October issue of Socialist Worker seems to sum up Trump’s brand of “shock and awe” politics, best: “Our resistance in the era of political whiplash.”

The SW editors write:

Think about it: In less than a month’s time, we witnessed the far-right carnival of hate in Charlottesville and a murderous attack on anti-racist demonstrators; the unnatural disasters of [hurricanes] Harvey and Irma confirming the destruction that capitalism has caused through climate change and greed; more nuclear saber-rattling by the world’s main super-bully in Washington; and the Trump administration ending DACA protections for undocumented youth now threatened with deportations to places most don’t remember.

This seemingly non-stop “political barrage,” they add, “is a central part of the right’s strategy: to stun opponents into inaction.”

We are, needless to say, living in radical times. And radical times call for radical politics.

Capitalism is currently in deep crisis. The elites no longer have any credibility. Where once the meritocratic Horatio Alger model of improving one’s living standards through hard work and educational achievement at least held some modicum of truth for working-class Americans, this ruling-class principle no longer holds any currency.

For the first time in decades, an entire generation of young adults will be worse off financially than their parents. And this is despite the fact that millennials are the most educated generation in history. (They are also the most debt-burdened from the ever-increasing costs of college education.)

These diminished economic prospects are compounded by a menacing plague of opioid addiction that, in 2016 alone, claimed an estimated 64,000 lives.

As a result, nearly half of millennials believe the so-called “American Dream,” is dead, according to a 2015 Harvard Institute of Politics survey. Where once the bourgeois elite could at least hold out the promise that if you work hard you too can join the middle-class—if not the rich—now the prospects for working-class people have been reduced to merely hoping a climate-change augmented hurricane or forest fire does not destroy your home and all your belongings.

Now, if that ain’t a reason to stand in patriotic reverence for our national anthem during commercialized spectator sports, well, you must just hate The Troops, you son of a bitch!

Wealth inequality is, in fact, far worse than most Americans realize. Of the $30 trillion in wealth the U.S. has gained since the end of the Great Recession of 2008, the 400 richest individuals received an average of $2,500,000,000 each. Those in the bottom 80 percent, meanwhile, got roughly $13,000 each.

And working-class wages remain stagnant. “Income for the working-age bottom 50%,” writes economist, Paul Buchheit, “has not improved since the late 1970s. The share of all income going to the poorest 50% has dropped from 20 to 12 percent. The share going to the richest 1% has risen from 12 to 20 percent.”

While it is not unusual for capitalism to periodically go into crisis (indeed, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels understood that the unplanned, unmanaged nature of capitalism makes it inherently prone to crisis), the scale of this particular economic crisis has not been seen since the Gilded Age of the 1920s.

Marxist economist, Richard Wolff suggests labeling this “new period” of capitalism “post-neoliberal,” “post-globalized,” or “neo-nationalist.” Whichever term one prefers, Wolff describes this era as one in which,

[T]he major corporations, the top 1% they enrich, and the top 10% of managers and professionals they employ will no longer provide the rest of us anywhere near the number of well-paid jobs and generous government policies of the post-1945 period. Given this reality for them, they could hypothetically reduce, more or less equally across the board, the jobs, incomes, and public services available to the bottom 90% of the US population. But at least in the short run, this is politically too dangerous.

Wolff continues:

The only other option they see is to divide the bottom 90% into two groups. For the favored one, jobs, incomes, and standards of living will be only marginally reduced or perhaps, if possible, marginally improved. For the other group, their economic situation will be savaged, reduced to conditions formerly associated with seriously underdeveloped parts of the planet. The time has thus arrived in the US for a major struggle—economically, politically, and ideologically—over just who will be in those two groups. The violence lurking in this struggle has surfaced so far most starkly and provocatively in the murder of [Heather Heyer] at Charlottesville. It reflects the stakes in the proliferating struggles.

And the crisis of capitalism is not relegated to the United States. Britain’s unexpected vote to leave the European Union (EU) last year (“Brexit”), along with the recent uprising in Catalonia for independence from Spain represent, for the power elite, dramatic threats to the neoliberal status quo. That neoliberal order is crumbling—and the bourgeois ruling class is scared to death.

Their fear is compounded here at home with the expectation-shattering election of Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton was the ruling class’ preferred candidate. Her political experience and proven loyalty to corporate capitalism made her the logical successor to Barack Obama’s Wall Street-friendly policies. For the ruling class, Clinton represented not so much the “lesser evil” as liberals frequently describe the Democratic candidate, but, to use Black Agenda Report executive editor, Glen Ford’s phrase, the “more effective evil.”

But Trump is a wild card.

His erratic and unpredictable behavior makes him difficult for the bourgeois—as well as the elements of the so-called “Deep State” (the FBI, CIA, military-industrial complex, etc.)—to control. And much of Trump’s agenda concerning immigration and nationalism flies in the face of a global capitalist order that, for decades, has relied on cheap, under-paid and easily exploited immigrant labor.

Yet, Trump is merely a symptom of the larger disease of capitalism. While I am all for removing Trump from office (with the understanding that the homophobic, Christian evangelical, Mike Pence would take his place), the fact is life in pre-Trump America was hardly a paradise for working-class people.

Thus, the left’s goal cannot be to merely vote for Democrats in 2018, and Kamala Harris or Cory Booker in 2020–though this is precisely what many liberals advocate. The inconvenient truth is that the corporatist, neoliberal policies of Bill Clinton and Obama paved the way for President Trump. We cannot simply return to business as usual.

Instead, we must build on the renewed interest in socialism, particularly among young people, that Bernie Sanders helped spark. The International Socialist Organization (ISO), which I am a dues-paying member of, has seen record turnout at its weekly public meetings in branches throughout the country. And interest has only increased since the start of the fall 2017 college semester.

People are clearly hungry for a radical politics that both speaks to their lived conditions, and can help them fight back against the proto-fascist far-right. Now is the time to tap into that hunger, and build a viable working-class movement that can agitate for tangible reforms in the here in now, as well as point the way forward to a more just, egalitarian, and sustainable socialist future.

“[H]ere it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law,” Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto in 1848.

… The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

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The Perils of Left-Wing Dystopia

Climate change future

As the massive devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have frighteningly illustrated, climate change is no longer some abstract, distant threat. The effects are unfolding now, right in front of us. Climate change, more than any other urgent social issue, represents perhaps the gravest, most dire threat to humankind’s continued existence.

Capitalism—a system that eschews planning and concern for future generations in the interest of short-term profit—is killing the planet. While liberals point to capitalism’s excesses and individual consumer choices as the main drivers of global warming, this narrow perspective fails to understand the precise nature of capitalism. It is, in the end, an inherently exploitative system that reduces everything—including the ecosystem that supports all life on the planet—to a commodity.

There is little doubt the climate crisis is quite dire. Climate scientists warn we must make dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions if we are to avoid a four-six degree Celsius rise in global temperature. (Scientists and world leaders view anything less than two degrees as the “safe zone.”)

As Naomi Klein writes in her latest book, No Is Not Enough, “We are almost at midnight on the climate clock.”

At the same time, however, the left gains nothing by drowning in pessimism and despair–if not outright fatalism–in discussing global warming. So many leftists are downright bleak when it comes to assessing mankind’s ability to adequately confront the climate crisis.

Chris Hedges’ Sept. 10 column, titled “The Great Flood,” is characteristically dour.

“Droughts, floods, famines and disease will eventually see the collapse of social cohesion in large parts of the globe, including U.S. coastal areas,” Hedges writes. “The insecurity, hunger and desperation among the dispossessed of the earth will give rise to ad hoc militias, crime and increased acts of terrorism.”

This is, no doubt, an enitrely plausible future scenario—unless, of course, we act now to topple capitalism and overthrow the ruling elites that have poisoned our planet. But Hedges does not even entertain the latter prospect. Indeed, his piece offers no blueprint for actions readers might take or environmental groups they could join.

He instead continues to outline his dystopian, climate-ravaged society:

We will react [to climate change] like most patients with a terminal disease as they struggle to confront their imminent mortality. The gradual diminishing of space, perception and strength will weaken our capacity to absorb reality. The end will be too horrible to contemplate. The tangible signs of our demise will be obvious, but this will only accelerate our retreat into delusional thinking. We will believe ever more fervently that the secular gods of science and technology will save us.

But this ignores the vast numbers of people throughout the globe who are taking action to halt—at least as much as is now possible—the effects of climate change.

The environmental movement has undergone something of a radicalization in the last decade or so. Many of the leading environmental groups, including Greenpeace and 350.org, understand that it is capitalism–or, at the very least, the extractive oil industry– that is the cause of the climate crisis. These groups have, in recent years, engaged in targeted campaigns singling out top corporate polluters like ExxonMobil and the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

Much of this radicalization has been driven by the college students and young people who make up a significant part of the environmental left. These young people understand fully well the grave threat global warming poses to their future, and the future of all life on Earth.

Anjali Appadurai, then a student at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, seemed to speak for young activists throughout the world when she addressed the U.N. Climate Summit in Durban, Africa, on Dec. 9, 2011.

“I speak for more than half the world’s population,” said Appadurai, then-21-years-old. “We are the silent majority.”

She went on:

You have given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not on the table. What does it take to get a seat in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money? You’ve been negotiating all my life. In that time you have failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.

… There is real ambition in this room, but it’s been dismissed as radical, deemed not politically possible. Stand with Africa. Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation, and to condemn millions to death by climate change. What is radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach.

Hedges is difficult to peg, politically. He describes himself as a socialist, but his writing typically has more of an anarchist-bent. (Perhaps Hedges is best characterized as what Jacobin editor, Bhaskar Sunkara calls an “anarcho-liberal.”)

While Hedges correctly points to the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries as the driving forces behind the decades-long corporate campaign to cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate change (“They fear that a rational, effective response to climate change will impede profits,” he writes), he stops short of singling out the system of capitalism.

In the absence of any course of action one might take, readers are left feeling depressed, demoralized, and politically disengaged. “The damage suffered by Houston, Tampa and Miami is not an anomaly,” Hedges concludes. “It is the beginning of the end. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

Shit… I guess it is a good thing I do not have any kids, in that case…

When Hedges, in some of his books and other columns, does offer suggestions for how readers might fight back, they tend to be vague and unspecified. He often calls for leftists to retreat into “self-sustained communities”—a tactic that reeks of petit bourgeois, “buy local” campaigns.

But we cannot simply disengage from capitalism while the rest of the world around us literally burns. Our goal must be to smash the system and create a new one.

None of this is to suggest we should be pollyannaish about climate change. Indeed, the inverse of pessimism devoid of hope is perennial—and often delusional—positive thinking, a phenomenon Barbara Ehrenreich explores in her 2009 book, Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America.

That said I fully disagree that “hope is a bourgeois construction,” as an ultra-left commenter said last year at a public talk I attended at the University of Southern Maine. (Most people present at the talk, including the speaker, disagreed with this statement.)

Whether we deem the proverbial glass “half-empty,” or “half-full,” our job as socialists is not merely to interpret the world, as the philosophers of our time have. Rather, the goal, as Marx once wrote, is to change it.

We owe it to ourselves and, especially, to future generations, to do everything within our power to prevent the worst impacts of climate change—no matter how bleak the situation may be. Succumbing to despair and pessimism does nothing to fulfill that obligation.

In the words of the Swedish punk-rock band, The Refused, “I’d rather be forgotten/Then remembered for giving in.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

Here Comes the Flood: Capitalism Causes Climate Chaos

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Hurricane Harvey, which has all but devastated Texas, is on record to be the worst “natural” disaster in U.S. history. I put “natural” in quotation marks, because while the storm itself cannot be blamed solely on climate change, there is little doubt the warming oceans and wetter atmosphere caused by global warming, augmented Harvey’s strength and power.

Harvey has left 50 people dead, 30,000 Texas residents seeking shelter, and about 100,000 homes damaged or destroyed by flooding. Indeed, the storm is almost Biblical in the amount of rain it has produced: 24.5 trillion gallons of water, according to the Washington Post.

We are seeing many of the same socio-economic discrepancies playing out with Harvey as we did in Hurricane Katrina, which wreaked a similar path of destruction in New Orleans in 2005, and New York’s Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The rich and those with the means to evacuate have managed to escape the worst destruction, while the poor, the infirm, and people of color have been left to drown.

(In a twisted irony of Trumpian nationalism, many undocumented immigrants in Houston and other flooded areas are afraid to seek out help and shelter for fear they will be deported.)

In the end, it is the poor and working class who will bear the brunt of climate catastrophe. The wealthy will escape into their sheltered enclaves, in a scenario reminiscent of the Neil Blomkamp sci-fi film, Elysium.

And it is not just Texas that is underwater. Less reported on in the corporate media have been the equally horrific monsoons in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, which have left more than 1,200 dead.

Welcome to life in the Anthropocene. And, unless we take action now to radically reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, climate-charged hurricanes like Harvey are only going to become stronger, deadlier, and more frequent.

Climate scientists warn we are perilously close to reaching key planetary “tipping points.” Passing these thresholds could trigger a procession of warming “feedback loops,” wherein warming increases, thus further exacerbating the climate crisis. The most alarming of these tipping points is the potential release of methane gas stored in the permafrost of the rapidly melting Arctic. Methane has about 30 times the heat-trapping potential as carbon dioxide.

Additionally, because greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane linger in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, any warming beyond two degrees Celsius—itself widely regarded as a “catastrophic” increase in planetary warming by the scientific community—would be “locked in” for at least a century—perhaps longer.

And all of this—the melting Arctic, the rising sea levels, the increase in cataclysmic storms like Hurricane Harvey—is happening much faster than the climate models predicted.

As Naomi Klein warns in her latest book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, “We are almost at midnight on the climate clock.”

But, as important as it is that those of us on the left are clear about the science and the urgency about climate change, we must also be unambiguous about its cause: Capitalism.

While liberals tend to point to the excesses or the short-sightedness of the system—arguing those excesses could be tamed through market-oriented solutions like cap-and-trade legislation, or with more “capable,” “enlightened” leaders in government—this view fails to accurately account for the nature of capitalism. It is an economic system that views everything—including human lives, and the ecosystem that supports all life on Earth—as a commodity. Exploitation and unceasing economic expansion are built into capitalism’s DNA.

As such, there is no harmonious balance where capitalism and a sustainable, habitable environment can co-exist. There is no such thing as “green” or “ethical” capitalism. Indeed, the choice humanity now faces is quite stark: We can, in the words of eco-socialist, Fawzi Ibrahim, “Save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.”

Does this mean we must wait for a working-class revolution before we can adequately address climate change? Of course not. Given the current weakness of the U.S. left and its overall lack of organization, this is simply untenable. The urgency of the crisis demands that we push for whatever environmental gains we can get out of the system that currently exists, in the here and now—however minimal they may be.

But pointing out both the scope of the climate crisis and its primary driver (capitalism) is not meant to disempower or overwhelm citizens concerned about the future of the planet. It is merely to illustrate the task we are up against.

“If we are to save our world,” writes Chris Williams, author of the book, Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis, “it will not be enough to chip away at the walls; the people of the world must take a hammer to the entire foundation.”

Yet all is not lost.

I, for one, am encouraged by the degree of radicalization the environmental movement has undergone within the last decade. Many of the leading environmental advocacy groups (The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and 350.org, to name just a handful) have largely dropped the individualist-oriented approaches to combating global warming that have characterized much of the environmental movement for the last two decades.

These individualist “strategies” for fighting climate change include using energy efficient lightbulbs, driving less, biking to work, eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, and the ultimate petit bourgeois con—shopping local. These are all noble endeavors in and of themselves, which nobody concerned about the environment or just living a healthier lifestyle should be discouraged from undertaking. But, given that oil companies and corporations are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, even if every U.S. citizen ditched their cars tomorrow, it would still make little overall impact.

In place of these individualist lifestyle measures, groups like Greenpeace and 350.org have engaged in more militant, activist oriented campaigns aimed directly at the fossil fuel industry—and oil giants like ExxonMobil, and the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, in particular. Leading environmental activists like Bill McKibben have even been arrested, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House, in 2014.

Obviously, the left still has a lot of work to do. But this burgeoning radicalization—much of it encouraged by the young people and college students that constitute a major part of the environmental left—is certainly an encouraging sign.

We have the technology to begin the transition to a green economy right now. What we lack is not the “political will” to tackle global warming, as liberals often claim.

It is, rather, the fact that working-class people have no control over implementing the transition to wind, solar, and tidal power, and other forms of renewable energy on the mass scale needed. Such decisions are instead in the hands of a tiny group of wealthy business executives and CEOs–the very people who caused the climate crisis, in the first place. And the nature of the profit-driven capitalist system demands they focus more on maximizing profits than on saving the planet. Yet we are routinely assured this warped way of organizing society is the “best we can do”–that there is “no alternative.”

As Paul D’Amato writes in his socialism primer, The Meaning of Marxism:

The very advances made in human productive powers under capitalism that have brought us the possibility of a world without want are also altering our environment in ways that threaten the future viability of life on planet earth. As the renowned environmentalist and activist, Bill McKibben notes, “We’re moving quickly from a world where we push nature around to a world where nature pushes back–and with far more power.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

Say Yes to Socialism

Klein in Conversation
Authors Michelle Alexander, Naomi Klein, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (left to right) in conversation at Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, on May 9, 2017. Photo from Haymarket Books.

One of the lessons that has become increasingly clear for those of us on the left since Donald Trump’s election is that it is not enough to simply be against Trump. We must also stand for something. We must put forward a radical yet convincing alternative for how society could be organized—an alternative rooted in Marxism that speaks to working-class Americans’ economic grievances as well as their aspirations for equality and social justice.

In other words, we should not merely settle for impeaching Trump (though I am completely down with that goal). We must dismantle the entire racist, sexist, xenophobic capitalist system that gave rise to Trump and his swamp monster administration of billionaires and bigots.

Liberals and leftists have largely neglected this second part of the equation—articulating what we are for—in recent decades.  And, in many respects, the Democrats’ 2016 election loss was a reflection of that neglect. Bernie Sanders received some 13 million votes in the Democratic primary not only because his democratic-socialist ideas are extremely popular among voters. But his success is also due to the fact that he actively campaigned for something—a vision of a better, more equitable and sustainable future for working-class people.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, campaigned on the vapid, decidedly uninspiring idea that America is “already great.” Her electoral platform was essentially a continuation of Barack Obama’s neoliberal, warmongering agenda. And as dire as things are now with the Predator-in-Chief in the White House, we cannot delude ourselves about the shortcomings and missed opportunities of the last eight years under Obama.

“The alternative is socialism,” writes Paul D’Amato in his socialism-primer, The Meaning of Marxism. “Shorn of the baggage that socialism never asked to carry, it is an attractive idea. It is not a dream concocted in the head of a utopian thinker: It was born in the collective action of workers themselves…”

This is the central argument of Naomi Klein’s latest book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.

The book is, as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s blurb on the back states, “an urgent intervention” by one of the most prominent and intellectually sophisticated voices on the left. And it is an argument that is clearly resonating with readers: No Is Not Enough is a New York Times bestseller, and the first book by Chicago-based publisher, Haymarket Books, to achieve such status.

Klein’s latest book—which she admits to urgently banging out in a few months as opposed to the five years she typically spends researching and writing—is in many ways a synthesis of her previous material—No Logo (1999), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007), and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014).

Klein views Trump as the inevitable outcome of all the late-stage capitalist trends she documents in those previous works. In fact, Trump is, Klein argues, a monstrous amalgamation of those capitalist developments, “sewn together out of the body parts of all of these and many other dangerous trends.”

“… Trump, extreme as he is, is less an aberration than a logical conclusion—a pastiche of pretty much all the worst trends of the past half century,” she writes.

Trump is the product of powerful systems of thought that rank human life based on race, religion, gender, sexuality, physical appearance, and physical ability—and that have systematically used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic policies since the earliest days of North American colonization and the trans-atlantic slave trade. … Most of all, he is the incarnation of a still-powerful free-market ideological project … that wages war on everything public and commonly held, and imagines corporate CEOs as superheroes who will save humanity.

Klein’s central premise, however, draws heavily from The Shock Doctrine. In that book, Klein traces the history of the right’s frequent exploitation of national “shocks,” whether they come in the form of a natural disaster, an economic crisis, or a terrorist attack.

While citizens are still reeling from the shock or tragedy, right-wing elites seize the opportunity to ram through extreme, free-market policies—measures they never would be able to pass under normal conditions. Under the cover of darkness, when the “normal rules of democracy” do not apply, the right can remake the world per their Chicago School-style, free-market utopian dreams. Schools become privatized, public services are decimated or abolished, entirely, and democracy is traded for a police state.

Klein points to the U.S.-backed 1973 coup in Chile, the fall of the Soviet Union, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the neoliberal gentrifying of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as prime examples of this “shock doctrine.”

Trump’s election, Klein argues, was the ultimate shock—one which we are still recovering from. His whirlwind barrage of executive statements signed within the first few weeks of his presidency, was the ultimate “shock tactic.” It was designed to keep progressives so overwhelmed as to leave them disoriented and demobilized—if not, indeed, demoralized.

And, Klein warns, the worst shocks are likely yet to come.

Indeed, the first half of the book–in which Klein soberly assesses the rapidly narrowing time-frame remaining to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change–is quite dire. Klein recalls a recent visit to the Great Barrier Reef, which has been besieged by a record-breaking global bleaching event, due to rising ocean temperatures. Large sections of the Reef are now dead, according to scientists.

“It’s worth underlining how little warming it took to bring about such a radical change,” writes Klein. “Ocean temperatures went up just one degree Celsius higher than the levels to which these incredible species are adapted, and that was enough for a massive die-off. Unlike many other climate change-related events, this wasn’t some dramatic storm or wildfire–just silent, watery death.”

But, as Klein’s own reporting in disaster-affected areas attests, the shock doctrine “can be resisted.” (Emphasis hers.)

Indeed, we have already seen an incredible initial surge of resistance to Trump’s presidency. There was the Women’s March on Washington–the largest single day of protest in U.S. history; the airport strikes against Trump’s Muslim travel ban; and the marches to address climate change and in defense of science, respectively.

And hundreds of activists have been arrested picketing outside their senators’ offices in opposition to the GOP’s barbaric health care replacement bill. (As of this writing, that bill seems to be D.O.A.)

But resistance alone is not enough. As Klein argues, this resistance must be combined with the left’s ability to tell “a different story from the one the shock doctors are peddling, a vision of the world compelling enough to compete head-to-head with theirs.”

“This values-based vision must offer a different path,” she writes, “away from serial shocks—one based on coming together across racial, ethnic, religious, and gender divides, rather than being wrenched further apart, and one based on healing the planet rather than unleashing further destabilizing wars and pollution.”

Klein later writes:

“No—to Trump, to France’s Marine Le Pen, to any number of xenophobic and hypernationalist parties on the rise the world over—may be what initially brings millions into the streets. But it is yes that will keep us in that fight.” (Emphasis hers.)

Throughout the book, Klein stresses the “intersectionality” of both class and identity-based forms of oppression–a point I, too, have tried to highlight on this blog. She chastises Clinton’s reliance on empty, “trickle-down feminism,” which, in the words of Sanders, amounted to little more than a rallying cry of, “I’m a woman! Vote for me!”

No Is Not Enough is an excellent addition to the growing cannon of “anti-Trump resistance” literature. At a time when much of the initial opposition to Trump has subsided, and many progressives have seemingly resigned themselves to voting for Democrats in 2018 (or, perhaps worse, pinning their hopes on the overblown, unverified allegations of “Russiagate” leading to Trump’s impeachment), Klein offers us a road-map for how to resist both Trump and the capitalist system that spawned him.

This will require, she argues, the left reclaiming its tradition of “dream[ing] big, out loud, in public–explosions of utopian imagination.”

Klein writes:

With unleashed white supremacy and misogyny, with the world teetering on the edge of ecological collapse, with the very last vestiges of the public sphere set to be devoured by capital, it’s clear that we need to do more than draw a line in the sand and say “no more.” Yes, we need to do that and we need to chart a credible and inspiring path to a different future. And that future cannot simply be where we were before Trump came along … It has to be somewhere we have never been before.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Trump to Planet Earth: Drop Dead

Smokestacks

In a recent conversation with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, Professor Noam Chomsky outlined the two gravest threats to the survival of the human species: Nuclear war and climate change.

“Has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth?” Chomsky asked of the Republican Party, which he called the most “dangerous organization in world history.”

“Not that I’m aware of. Is the Republican organization—I hesitate to call it a party—committed to that? Overwhelmingly. There isn’t even any question about it.”

Case in point, President Donald Trump has followed through on his campaign promise to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate change treaty. The unilateral decision, which Trump announced on June 1, was met with strong condemnation from world leaders, and 400 protesters marching in New York City.

The Paris accord is, admittedly, far from perfect. The emissions reductions nations committed to are mostly voluntary. Still, the deal was the best one to come out of the annual, largely fruitless, climate change conferences, since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. And Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal makes the U.S., in the words of the Bangor Daily News editorial board, “a climate change pariah.”

The U.S. is the world’s leading contributor of CO2 emissions.

In his speech announcing America’s departure from the Paris agreement, Trump rehashed the standard conservative argument that protecting the environment is at odds with accelerating economic growth, “creating jobs,” and maintaining a strong economy.

Trump—an ignoramus who, by his own admission, does not read books, newspapers, scientific reports or his own White House intelligence briefings—joins most of his peers in the Republican organization in blatantly denying the science of anthropogenic, or human-induced, climate change, in the first place. While the GOP has long harbored sentiments of anti-intellectualism, its wholehearted embrace of the trend in recent years is perhaps its most disturbing quality.

Yet, there is a sort of perverse logic to the right’s insistence that we can either have a clean, healthy environment and a habitable planet, or a “robust” economy, but we cannot have both. It is the logic of capitalism.

The bourgeois capitalists—particularly those in the oil and gas industry—understand that any environmental regulations or mandated emissions reductions will hurt their bottom line. And they simply cannot allow that to happen. The logic of capitalism demands capitalists maximize short-term profits above all else—regardless of any unfortunate consequences or catastrophes that may occur down the road as a result.

As author, Paul D’Amato explains in his socialism-primer, The Meaning of Marxism, trying to get corporations—or their state-appendages in the government and the military—to “act as stewards of our environment,” is like “trying to get wolves not to hunt.”

Thus, where scientists and environmentalists view the rapidly melting Arctic as an ominous sign of a planet literally in its death throes, the corporate elite see another business opportunity. Indeed, the system of capitalism, and its tendency to turn everything, including the very ecosystem that supports life on the planet, into a commodity may well be the living manifestation of Freud’s theory of man’s subconscious “death drive.”

And despite whatever emerging markets there may be for solar, wind, and tidal power and other forms of renewable energy resources, capital’s reliance on cheap, dirty fossil fuels is unlikely to be abated any time soon–at least, not soon enough to save the planet. ExxonMobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell intend to forcefully extract every last drop of oil from the planet before their CEOs ever begin to consider a new business model.

As Alyssa Battistoni writes in a Dec. 11, 2015 piece for Jacobin:

Capital came into the world dripping from every pore not only with dirt and blood but also coal dust and oil; it very well may be inextricably bound to fossil fuels to power the contemporary pace and scale of global production. It’s certainly never existed without them.

In other words, we cannot sit back and wait for the innovations of The Market to intervene and save us.

Nor, can we place our faith in individual consumer habits or lifestyle choices to make a significant difference in reducing carbon emissions. For decades liberals and environmental groups have advocated we drive less, bike or walk more, become vegetarians or vegans, and shop exclusively at local businesses.

These are all noble endeavors, no doubt, which nobody should be discouraged from undertaking. But climate change is a global problem of such vast proportions individual lifestyle changes alone will, sadly, prove insufficient in remedying it.

Furthermore, the individualist solutions so long proffered by the “Big Green” groups like the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council incorrectly place the blame for climate change on the entire populations of industrialized nations—not taking into account the vast disparity in class within those countries.

For instance, a working-class person who owns one car and rents a home has a considerably smaller “carbon footprint” compared to a wealthy investment banker who owns multiple vehicles, two “McMansion”-sized homes, a boat, a plane, and spends his time crisscrossing the globe. In fact, just 90 corporations are responsible for generating two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution, according to a Nov. 20, 2013 story in The Guardian.

Thus, climate change really is a crisis created by the bourgeoisie and dumped, like so much garbage, onto the doorsteps of the working class.

Fortunately, many of the “Big Green” groups have slowly moved away from individualist solutions in recent years as the environmental movement has become more radicalized. Groups like 350.org and Greenpeace have adopted more activist-oriented campaigns aimed squarely at ExxonMobil or the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

The sub-title of Naomi Klein’s landmark 2014 book, This Changes Everything, speaks to this emerging radicalization in the environmental movement: Capitalism vs. The Climate.

It is clear by now that we cannot rely on presidents, Congress or market-driven solutions to halt the worst impacts of climate change. Only the working class, by seizing the means of production and developing a rationally-planned, sustainable society based not on profit but on human need, can hope to avert climate catastrophe.

“[O]ur economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” Klein writes. “Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Solidarity with Standing Rock

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The extreme state violence unleashed on the indigenous protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota, is not only shocking, but should also be very instructive to all Americans who care about social justice and democracy.

The capitalist state has demonstrated just how far it is willing to go to ensure its profits are secure. Those like the Sioux Standing Rock tribal nations who valiantly stand in the way of corporate profits through their ongoing protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) will find themselves on the receiving end of the full force of the state.

In the words of the malicious apparatchik, O’Brien, in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, “We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back.”

Consider that the U.S. capitalist state’s unofficial slogan.

The protesters—who refer to themselves as “water protectors”—include the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe along with dozens of other native tribes and non-native activists. They have been camped out at the Sacred Stone campsite for months now to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which would carry about 500,000 barrels of dirty crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil shale to Illinois. The $3.8 billion pipeline would run directly through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s treaty-protected land, as well as sacred burial sites. It would also pose a considerable threat to the Missouri River, tribe’s water source.

Rebecca Solnit, writing for The Guardian in September, calls the burgeoning protest movement, “extraordinary,” and “possibly transformative for native rights, Sioux history, and the intersection of the climate movement with indigenous communities.”

But the protest has been met with vicious repression by local police forces in riot gear and the National Guard, along with heavily armored private security forces assumed to have been hired by Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation funding DAPL. In a highly disproportionate display of force similar to the state’s response to largely peaceful protests in Ferguson, Missouri, police have used tear-gas, attack dogs, pepper spray, and sound cannons on the water protectors.

The police violence reached a frightening crescendo on Nov. 20, when a protester, 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, was severely injured by what eyewitness accounts claim was a concussion grenade hurled directly at her. Wilansky’s left arm was grievously maimed during the explosion, which destroyed arteries, soft tissue, nerves, muscle, and bone, according to the Guardian. It remains to be seen whether she will need to have the arm amputated.

Officers are now denying they ever used concussion grenades on the protesters, claiming instead that protesters set off the explosion. Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, calls this account, “bogus nonsense.”

Video recordings of the night of Wilansky’s injury show the police and Morton County Sheriff’s Department officers using water cannons on protesters in sub-freezing temperatures.

Make no doubt about it: This is a terrifying act of carnage against peaceful protesters.

And where is President Barack Obama during this assault on American citizens…? It is a good question. He and the Democrats–still licking their wounds after their stunning surprise electoral defeat in this month’s presidential election–have been conspicuously silent about Standing Rock.

Earlier this month, Obama addressed the stand-off in his typically aloof, bureaucratic manner. In an interview with Now This News, in which the president tepidly broached the prospect of having the pipeline re-routed, he said:

“We are going to let it [the standoff] play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

Obama went on to criticize “both sides” in the struggle, falsely suggesting that the First Nations protesters and the state forces are equally to blame for the escalation of violence.

“I think that my general rule when I talk to governors and state and local officials,” Obama said, “whenever they are dealing with protests–including, for example during the Black Lives Matter protests–there is an obligation for protesters to be peaceful, and there is an obligation for authorities to show restraint.”

He went on,

“I want to make sure that as everybody is exercising their constitutional rights to be heard that both sides are refraining from situations that might result in people being hurt.”

But this assessment of the situation at Standing Rock is a disingenuous false equivalency. “Both sides” are not at fault, here. There is really just one side in this conflict that is employing violence and disproportionate force: The state forces, in the form of the police and the National Guard.

Furthermore, the law enforcement officers have military-grade weapons, including water cannons, rubber bullets, attack dogs, tear gas, mace, and grenades. The peaceful water protectors, meanwhile, have signs, banners and … some tribal drums. Thus, even if we are to accept Obama’s false claim that both camps are equally guilty of engaging in violence, this conflict hardly constitutes a fair fight.

As cultural studies philosopher, Theodor Adorno wrote, “Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes the dissimilar comparable by reducing it to abstract quantities.”

All of this is to acknowledge that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the state is not a neutral arbiter in instances of class struggle. We are taught in school that the U.S. government operates with a system of “checks and balances,” to ensure the equitable distribution of power among competing groups (women, minorities, labor, business, immigrants, etc.).

But the state actually has a self-serving objective: The advancement of capitalism–at any cost.

As Marx and Engels observed in The Communist Manifesto, the capitalist state is little more than a “committee for managing the affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

Or, as Paul D’Amato writes in his socialism primer, The Meaning of Marxism:

“In a society based upon massive concentrations of wealth on the one end, and poverty and low wages on the other, one billionaire has more political clout than even millions of workers.”

The point here is that the state (or, more specifically, the fossil fuel corporations like Energy Transfer Partners, which essentially control the state) has a clear financial interest in building the Dakota Access Pipeline. If it must maim–or even kill–unarmed citizens in order to achieve this end, so be it.

This is why piecemeal reforms are ultimately not sufficient to curb capitalism’s relentless thirst for ever greater profits. The entire system is incompatible with human needs–including the maintenance of a healthy, sustainable planet habitable for human life. Capitalism is literally killing the planet. It must be dismantled.

And that is why supporting the water protectors at Standing Rock, in whatever manner one is able to, is the most important thing progressives can do right now.

“Without clean water we are nothing,” one activist said. “You can’t live off of oil. You can’t drink oil.”

 

 

November Spawned a Monster

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Reckoning with Trump’s win and the dark, difficult struggle ahead.

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind,” Mary Shelley wrote in Frankenstein, “as a great and sudden change.”

Twelve days after the 2016 presidential election, I am still having difficulty fully processing the fact that reality TV celebrity, Donald J. Trump will be the next president of the United States. Like most of the pundits, I expected Hillary Clinton to win. (Cue accusations that third-party voters like me “spoiled” the race in three … two … one …)

How wrong we all were.

To put this into historical context, the country’s first African American president is to be followed by a narcissistic megalomaniac and outright racist, sexist, and Islamophobe, with open ties to white supremacist groups including the KKK. This is a man who has a long, disturbing history of sexual harassment of women and young girls, bragging in a now infamous recording that he enjoys “grabbing them by the pussy.” This is a man who began his xenophobic presidential campaign by claiming that Mexicans are “rapists,” and promising to build a wall on the Mexican border, and forcing Mexico to pay for it.

While many conservative critics derided President Barack Obama for his lack of government experience, having served only one term in the U.S. Senate, Trump has no political experience at all. He has never held public office.

And now voters have just handed this man the reins of Executive power, including nuclear launch codes, access to FBI Intelligence briefings, and the ever expanding tools of the security and surveillance state.

When faced with a choice between an arrogant, racist pussy-grabber, and a bellicose Establishment elite, who represents the very epitome of bourgeois neoliberalism–admittedly not much of a choice, at all– voters decided to take their chances with the racist pussy-grabber.

And this is acknowledging that about half of eligible voters were so repulsed by the option of Clinton or Trump, that they abstained from voting, entirely. I can’t honestly say I blame them. So much for the “world’s greatest democracy.”

Make no mistake: Trump’s election marks a chilling turning-point for the country and the world.

Not only has Trump’s victory further emboldened the racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-immigrant groups and sentiments whose fear and hatred he has ominously stoked throughout his campaign.

But, on the environmental front, Trump’s climate change denial and vow to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris climate negotiation and charge full-speed ahead with coal production, spell almost certain doom for the prospects of keeping global temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius–the perceived “safe zone” for maintaining a habitable planet for the human species.

While I maintain things would still look considerably (if not quite equally) bleak had Clinton won, we must be very clear about the unique and frankly frightening threat that President Trump will present to our already beleaguered democracy.

Indeed, the next four years are going to be very tumultuous, and we will likely suffer a number of serious losses on our side. Those of us on the left should, by all means, mount a sustained, organized resistance to every aspect of Trump’s vile agenda. But we must be prepared for the harsh reality and difficulties that await us.

As Dan O’ Sullivan writes in a recent piece for Jacobin:

It will be bad–a violent acceleration of America’s drift, and with it, perhaps, the destruction of the last remnants of an enlightened society.

Medicare and Social Security will be on the chopping block. War will reign as the boss universal, the very pretense of diplomacy discarded with, once and for all. America won’t just continue its deportation regime; it’ll be something akin to a reality show now. Capital will surge up the ladder even faster, marrow being sucked from the poor.

So how the hell did this happen? How could the ostensibly enlightened pollsters, pundits, and intelligentsia been so completely wrong in their electoral forecasts?

There are, certainly, a number of answers to this question, and there has been no shortage of post-election assessments from the same clueless, chattering classes. But for now, I think it is enough to attribute the Democrats’ stunning loss to a single name: Hillary Clinton.

The fact is, Clinton was probably the worst candidate the Dems could have run for this election–one in which the clamoring for an “outsider” candidate was so clearly pronounced.

It is not just that, as a politician, Clinton possesses none of the charm and charisma associated with her husband. Rather, policy-wise Clinton’s campaign offered virtually nothing enticing that voters could enthusiastically rally around the way they rallied around Bernie Sanders.

Clinton’s entire response to Trump’s asinine promise to “Make America Great Again,” was that “America is already great.” Not only was this simplistic slogan incredibly inane, but it only further marked Clinton as an out-of-touch elite, so completely detached from the everyday economic struggles of working-class Americans. Calling Trump supporters “deplorable” (even with the understanding that some of them absolutely are) obviously did not help.

While I maintain my criticisms of Sanders’ decision to run in the capitalist Democratic Party rather than as an independent or in the Green Party, as well as his hawkish foreign policy platform, the fact is his campaign offered bold, radical solutions to ameliorate the devastating effects of capitalism. And the thousands of voters who packed into stadiums to hear the 74-year-old, self-described “democratic socialist” talk about universal health care, tuition-free college education, paid maternity leave, and the urgent threat posed by global warming, showed that Americans are ready for, if not quite socialism per se, at least something closer to that concept than voters have been offered in decades.

Clinton, in contrast, proposed that we must “save capitalism from itself.”

In the end, the Democratic Party–not just the DNC or Debbie Wasserman Schultz, mind you, but the entire party–crushed Sanders’ campaign.

And, while the election has been something of a vindication of Sanders to a Democratic Party and its subservient corporate media that never had much time for him, we must not let the Vermont senator off the hook, entirely. Sanders’ decision to play the role of “sheepdog” and campaign for Clinton after the primaries rather than continue his presidential run with the Greens, demonstrates his own culpability in this sad, unfortunate affair.

The left should not forget this going forward. It is yet another reason why we must abandon the Democrats, entirely. They are not on our side.

The one silver lining we can take from all this is found in the dozens of protests that have erupted in major cities throughout the country since the election. At least four major demonstrations have already taken place in Portland, Maine, including a student walkout at the University of Southern Maine on Nov. 15, protesting both Trump’s win and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

We need to make these demonstrations a permanent fixture of Trump’s presidency. After all, as Howard Zinn famously observed, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House but who is ‘sitting-in’–and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”

We must ignore the calls from accommodationist liberals to “give Trump a chance,” or to “see what he is going to do.” We already know what Trump plans to do. We should not give him an inch to enact any of his horrific, regressive agenda. No, our goal for the next four years should be to make America ungovernable.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we firmly plant the flag of socialism in the hopes of attracting some of the legitimately angry and disaffected workers who, in desperation, voted for Trump (or did not vote at all). We cannot simply write them all off as irredeemable racists. Indeed, a majority of Trump supporters voted for Obama at least once in the last two presidential elections.

We must, rather, offer them a viable left-wing alternative wherein workers can not only improve their current economic circumstances, but eventually establish a world where they have complete control over their economic, political, social and even spiritual lives.

The road ahead is no doubt quite ominous. I cannot say with any certainty that we will succeed in pushing back Trump’s agenda of hate–never mind our prospects of preventing humanity’s very extinction from a rapidly warming planet.

But we are doomed if we do not attempt to resist in every way possible. “I do not, in the end, fight fascists because I will win,” writes Chris Hedges. “I fight fascists because they are fascists.”