Barbara Lee, PDA and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Took the Initiative
By: Joe Gould
Oct 13, 2016 – WASHINGTON — Twenty-two more US House lawmakers are calling on President Barack Obama to adopt a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, part of a tide of Democratic lawmakers pushing for restraint on atomic arms as the sun sets on the current administration.
With relations between Washington and Moscow historically tense and unpredictable this week, the lawmakers in a letter to Obama on Thursday expressed worry over the two nations’ launch-under-attack postures and “the risk of catastrophic miscalculation and full-scale nuclear war.”
“As you know, were the United States to exercise its contingency plans to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict against a nuclear-armed adversary, a full-scale nuclear exchange could ensue, killing thousands of civilians,” the letter reads. “For the security and safety of the world, military options that can spiral towards mutually assured destruction should not be on the table.”
Thursday’s letter was led by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., the Peace and Security Task Force chair for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Another signatory was Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Ellison is the caucus’ co-chair and his party’s chief deputy whip in the House.
A no-first-use policy would minimize the need for "first strike” weapons, they argue in the letter, including the next-generation nuclear-armed cruise missile and intercontinental ballistic missiles, "which could generate significant cost savings and lead other nuclear-armed states to make similar calculations."
By WILLIAM BARBER II
New York Times Opinion
SEPT. 23, 2016 – Charlotte, N.C. — Since a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday afternoon, the ensuing protests have dominated national news. Provocateurs who attacked police officers and looted stores made headlines. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard joined police officers in riot gear, making the Queen City look like a war zone.
Speaking on the campaign trail in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Donald J. Trump offered a grave assessment: “Our country looks bad to the world, especially when we are supposed to be the world’s leader. How can we lead when we can’t even control our own cities?” Mr. Trump seems to want Americans to believe, as Representative Robert Pittenger, a Republican whose district includes areas in Charlotte, told the BBC, that black protesters in the city “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”
But Charlotte’s protests are not black people versus white people. They are not black people versus the police. The protesters are black, white and brown people, crying out against police brutality and systemic violence. If we can see them through the tear gas, they show us a way forward to peace with justice.
On Thursday, I joined 50 Charlotte-area clergy members who were on the streets this week. Yes, a few dozen provocateurs did damage property and throw objects at the police, after being provoked by the officers’ tear gas, rubber bullets and military-style maneuvers. But as we saw, thousands more have peacefully demonstrated against the institutional violence in their communities.
That systemic violence, which rarely makes headlines, creates the daily traumatic stress that puts our communities on edge, affecting both those of us who live there and outside observers who often denounce “black-on-black” crime. We cannot have a grown-up conversation about race in America until we acknowledges the violent conditions engendered by government policy and police practice.
Anyone who is concerned about violence in Charlotte should note that no one declared a state of emergency when the city’s schools were resegregated, creating a school-to-prison pipeline for thousands of poor African-American children. Few voiced outrage over the damage caused when half a million North Carolinians were denied health insurance because the Legislature refused to expand Medicaid.
When Charlotte’s poor black neighborhoods were afflicted with disproportionate law enforcement during the war on drugs, condemning a whole generation to bad credit and a lack of job opportunities, our elected representatives didn’t call it violence. When immigration officers raid homes and snatch undocumented children from bus stops, they don’t call it violence. But all of these policies and practices do violence to the lives of thousands of Charlotte residents.
As a pastor and an organizer, I do not condone violent protest. But I must join the Charlotte demonstrators in condemning the systemic violence that threatened Mr. Scott’s body long before an officer decided to use lethal force against him. And I must condemn the militarization of Charlotte by the authorities who do not want to address the fundamental concerns of protesters. For black lives to matter in encounters with the police, they must also matter in public policy.
The North Carolina NAACP called for full transparency in the Scott case, including a Justice Department investigation. There are still many unanswered questions, which is why we demand that the governor release video from body cameras recording the shooting. And we want accountability for officers who did not have their body cameras on when they confronted Mr. Scott while he was waiting for his son to get off the school bus.
Our protests are about more than the Scott case. Every child on that bus — every person in Mr. Scott’s neighborhood — is subject to systemic violence every day, violence that will only increase if Mr. Trump and others continue to exploit the specter of violent protests for political gain.
We have seen this before. After the civil rights movement pushed this nation to face its institutionalized racism, we made significant efforts to address inequality through the war on poverty. We did not lose that war because we lacked resources or met insurmountable obstacles. We lost it because Richard M. Nixon’s “Southern strategy” played on white fears about black power by promising to “restore order” without addressing the root causes of unrest.
In the Scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah denounces false prophets for crying “peace, peace when there is no peace.” We cannot condemn the violence of a small minority of protesters without also condemning the overwhelming violence that millions suffer every day.
Instead, let’s look again at the vast, diverse majority of the protesters. This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible.
William Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., is a founder of the “Moral Monday” movement and the author of “The Third Reconstruction.”
Soldiers rehearsing for this year’s 9 May Victory Day parade in Moscow Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency / Getty
West fearful as it loses military advantage
The major powers are planning for war and claim that’s the best way to defend against war. Will this mutual hawkishness lead to armed conflict?
Le Monde Diplomatique
As the US presidential race approaches its climax and European officials ponder the implications of the UK’s Brexit vote, public discussion of security affairs is largely confined to strategies for combating international terrorism. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are trying to persuade voters of their superior qualifications to lead this battle, while European leaders scramble to bolster their countries’ defences against homegrown extremists. But though talk of terrorism fills the news media and the political space, it is secondary in the conversations of generals, admirals and defence ministers: it’s not low-level conflict that commands their attention but rather what they call ‘big wars’ — large-scale, high-level conflict with great-power adversaries like Russia and China. Such major conflicts, long considered most unlikely, are now deemed ‘plausible’ by western military strategists, who claim that urgent steps are needed to deter and, if necessary, prevail in such engagements.
This development, overlooked by the media, has serious consequences, starting with heightened tension between Russia and the West, each eyeing the other in the expectation of a confrontation. More worrying is the fact that many politicians believe that war is not only possible, but may break out at any moment — a view that historically has tended to precipitate military responses where diplomatic solutions might have been possible.
The origins of this thinking can be found in the reports and comments of senior military officials (typically at professional meetings and conferences). ‘In both Brussels and Washington, it has been many years since Russia was a focus of defence planning’ but that ‘has now changed for the foreseeable future,’ states one such report, summarising the views at a workshop organised in 2015 by the Institute of National Strategic Studies (INSS), a branch of the US National Defence University. The report says that as a result of Russian aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, many defence experts ‘can now envision a plausible pathway to war’ and this, in turn, ‘has led defence planners to recognise the need for renewed focus of the possibility of confrontation and conflict with Moscow’ (1).
‘A return to great power competition’
Such a conflict would be most likely to occur on NATO’s eastern front, encompassing Poland and the Baltic states, and would be fought with high-tech conventional weapons. But these planners also postulate that it could encompass Scandinavia and the Black Sea region, and might escalate into the nuclear realm. So US and European strategists are calling for a build-up of western military capabilities in all of these regions and for moves to enhance the credibility of NATO’s tactical nuclear options (2). A recent article in the NATO Review calls for the increased inclusion of nuclear-capable aircraft in future NATO military exercises, to create uncertainty in Russian minds about the point at which NATO commanders might order nuclear strikes to counter any Russian breakthrough on the eastern front (and presumably deter such an assault) (3).
This way of thinking, though confined until recently to military academies and thinktanks, has begun to shape government policy in significant and alarming ways. We see this in the new US defence budget, in decisions adopted at the NATO summit in July, and in the UK’s July decision to renew the Trident nuclear missile programme.
US defence secretary Ash Carter said the new budget ‘marks a major inflection point for the Department of Defence.’ Whereas the department had been focused in recent years ‘on large-scale counter-insurgency operations,’ it must now prepare for ‘a return to great power competition,’ possibly involving all-out conflict with a ‘high-end enemy’ such as Russia or China. These countries, Carter declared, ‘are our most stressing competitors,’ possessing advanced weapons that could neutralise some US advantages. To overcome this challenge, ‘we must have — and be seen to have — the ability to impose unacceptable costs on an advanced aggressor that will either dissuade them from taking provocative action or make them deeply regret it if they do’ (4).
In the short term, this will require urgent action to bolster US capacity to counter a potential Russian assault on NATO positions in eastern Europe. Under its European Reassurance Initiative, the Pentagon will spend $3.4bn in fiscal 2017 to deploy an extra armoured combat brigade in Europe and to pre-position the arms and equipment for yet another brigade. To bolster US strength over the long term, there would be greater US spending on high-tech conventional weapons needed to defeat a high-end enemy, such as advanced combat aircraft, surface ships and submarines. Carter noted that, on top of this, ‘the budget also invests in modernising our nuclear deterrent’ (5). It’s hard not to be struck by echoes of the cold war.
By Rev. Walter ‘Slim’ Coleman
One of the “principles” of right wing racialist movements is the affirmation of deception as means to achieve power. This goes back to the Nazi’s and propagandist Goebbels: “Tell a big enough lie often enough and loud enough and you can get the public to accept it.” Neo-Nazi groups, as they merged with older groups like the Klan and developed the militias, brought this affirmation of deception into the right wing movement.
Because of this “principle”, Trump can now reverse his position on mass deportation and religious tests on both immigrants and long time residents with their approval. Indeed, Trump’s much publicized appointment of right winger Steve Bannon was made to assure the right wing that he was with them no matter what public positions he had to take in order to win election.
The racialist right has two main objectives: 1) to achieve more power and influence and “mainline status” for their own organizations, and 2) to maintain white political power and privileged economic status for white people in the face of an emerging majority of people of color.
Trump has won the support and established his political indebtedness to the organized white supremacist movement. That movement doesn’t care what he has to say to get elected.
A tactic that follows this “principle” of deception is to label the opposition with what the candidate or organization itself is doing. This is a traditional tactic of the right. Thus Trump calls Clinton a “bigot”. Trump’s explanation for this transposition is that “Clinton is a bigot because she views African Americans only as votes – and takes them for granted.”
Trump’s transposed attack on Clinton gives cover for his “law and order” position, attacking the black lives matter movement as “divisive and racist” and offering total and uncritical support for police, racial profiling and the system of mass incarceration.
During the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950’s racialist groups took on the hysteria 100% and participated in the McCarthy led movement to bring unsubstantiated charges against opponents and speak about them as if they were established facts. Trump has made this tactic his standard fare in his attacks on Clinton – stimulating calls to “lock her up”.
The history of the racialist right wing has always taken an “”America first” position, attacking the trilateral commission and the United Nations and multi-national corporations. As long as Trump maintains that he is “fighting the establishment” and fighting for “America First” it doesn’t matter what particular positions he takes to get elected.
Finally, the racialist movement always promotes a “strong leader” form of movement and government. This goes back to “the Fuehrer” concept and to the projection of Klan leaders like David Dukes as charismatic leaders. Trump’s appeal to the strong leader form of government, “Elect me and I will fix it” was yet another sign that Trump could be trusted.
Finally, the racialist right wing has try to insulate itself from the charge of racism – which they richly deserve – by calling any charge of racism as an example of racism – reverse racism. Thus Trump first attacked charges of racism as “political correctness” and then went on to call those charges “smear campaigns.” He lifts the burden of being labeled a racist off the backs of political moderate white people – and they appreciate him for doing that.
The appeal to the African American community on the issues of unemployment and violence crime is an echo of Nixon’s “law and order” and “Black Capitalism” and later “School choice” policies of the Republican right wing. Trump now describes himself as a “civil rights leader.” These so-called policies have never brought about improvements in the community – precisely because they are simply rhetorical cover for the maintenance of White power.
The rise of Donald Trump began with his attack on the first African American President – not for his policies but because he was not a “normal” white American. Trump then followed the right wing white power blue print on every strategic point.
We are there. A desperate right wing white power movement is trying to seize power in this nation. That is really the only issue left in this election.
Nearly every U.S. city has had Black Lives Matter protests in the two years since Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. The Movement for Black Lives has been galvanized into action once again by shocking videos of the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police. According to a July 10 National Public Radio report, over 200 protesters have been arrested in Louisiana, where Sterling was killed, and in Minnesota, where Castile was killed. These protests have been mirrored across the country over the last several days: thousands of protesters gathered in Oakland, CA on July 8 and blocked traffic in both directions on I-880; on July 8 and 9, 74 protesters were arrested in Rochester, NY; protesters in New York City held a moment of silence for the 11 police officers wounded or killed at a protest in Dallas, TX by lone gunman Micah Johnson, an Afghan War veteran. On July 11th the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, BLM, and Trinity United Church of Christ together mobilized 3,000 people in protest at Federal Plaza. More than 300 have been arrested across the U.S. protesting for justice in the last week.
The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism joins hands in this movement calling for an end to what amounts to a war on Black America.
There has been a long movement for civil rights, equality and justice in the United States whose victories have been inscribed in our Constitution. But the seemingly unstoppable spree of police murders has drawn attention to the fact that the real status of human rights in our country today is another thing altogether. In addition to a documented increase in killings of African Americans by police–often amounting to nothing other than summary execution–our country suffers under an historically unprecedented level of incarceration. Nearly half of all federal and state prisoners were incarcerated for nonviolent drug, property or public order offenses. The U.S. response to migration across our southern border has been violent and repressive. Our homeland security programs–including mass electronic surveillance–are eroding freedom of expression and association. American Muslims face discriminatory investigations and prosecution. The United States steadfastly refuses to grant reasonable access to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, both to our prisons in Guantanamo Bay as well as those within our borders. Those most likely to suffer abuse are those with the least power: racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the poor and prisoners.
And yet our State Department lectures the world on human rights. The United States conducts unending drone killings of civilians in Pakistan, destroys entire countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, recklessly expands military operations in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea–all in the name of “humanitarian intervention.” No, nobody who has watched the video of Cleveland Police shooting down 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a drive-by encounter lasting no more than a few seconds, nobody who is awake, can believe this lie any longer.
To move racial and economic justice forward in our country, we must place demands on the state.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed last March, former heads of state of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico flatly declared, “The ‘War on Drugs’ is an unmitigated disaster.” We must demand an end to the so-called War on Drugs.
In a strange twist, another unmitigated disaster, the 1994 Crime Bill, provides an opening for promoting criminal justice reform. It permits the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate local police departments and place those found to be in violation of civil rights under a consent decree. In two decades, we have seen little improvement from Justice Department supervision. But things could improve if the Justice Department’s framework for consent decrees incorporated a crucial feature of the report of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. That feature is Action Item 2.2.3: “mandate the use of external and independent prosecutors in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.” In this election season, we must pressure the Department of Justice to incorporate Action Item 2.2.3, the use of external and independent prosecutors, in their consent decree framework.
We support the Black Lives Matter movement and the many local organizations fighting police crimes, such as the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression-led campaign for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).
More than simply the right to live, people have the right to live in dignity. This connects the struggle against police brutality to the Fight for $15 and other living wage movements. We must raise Dr. King’s demand for a guaranteed income.
We must recall Dr. King’s courage in pointing out that there was a line that connected the vicious racism of the Selma, AL police with the illegal and immoral U.S. war on Viet Nam. He recognized that the United States was–and still is–the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. On a very deep level, fighting racism at home calls for fighting to curb the U.S. war machine.
The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism has long believed that the problems we face have a systemic source, and that a better world is possible. With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we believe that:
“On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: ‘This is not just.’”
May 30, 2016 – Peter Rosenstein has written a much-circulated Huffington Post article entitled “Sanders Candidacy Devolving into an Arrogant Insufferable Self-serving Disaster.”
The article couldn’t be more wrong. This is a rebuttal.
The article is is consistent with a not-so-subtle campaign by Clinton surrogates to discredit Sen. Sanders in order to limit his influence in moving the Democratic Party away from Clintonian corporate-friendly triangulation and back to its FDR-style New Deal roots as a party representing the interests of the working and middle classes; to discourage voters from going to the polls for Bernie in California and the other remaining primaries; and to excuse the manifest weakness of Secretary Clinton as a Presidential candidate by blaming it on Bernie.
Let’s be clear. There’s only the most remote chance of Bernie winning the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. And when the primaries are over, there will need to be a united front between Bernie and Hillary and their respective supporters to defeat the racist, xenophobic, misogynist Donald Trump.
But by every possible metric other than actually winning the nomination, Sanders’ candidacy has been an astounding success that will change America and the world for the better in ways we can only begin to imagine.
Let us count the ways:
• Hillary will likely eke out a win in the battle for the Democratic nomination, but Bernie has won the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party and the wider progressive movement.
• Bernie (and fellow progressives like Elizabeth Warren) represent the future of the Democratic Party while Hillary and Clintonism represent the past. Bernie has won overwhelming majorities among people under 45-years old (as well as independents). These are the people who will dominate the Democratic Party and the progressive movement in years to come.
• Bernie has raised voters’ enthusiasm level. Despite limited media coverage, he regularly gets tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters to his rallies, while Hillary struggles to get a few hundred or a few thousand. Democrats will need the enthusiasm of Bernie’s supporters to defeat Trump.
• Bernie’s campaign has become the largest progressive movement in recent history. As I’ve previously written, it will hopefully transform itself into a permanent mass progressive socialist/social democratic/progressive organization that will both run progressive candidates at every level of government from dog-catcher, to City-Councils, the State Legislatures to Congress, and organize popular campaigns, sometimes including large-scale demonstrations and even non-violent civil disobedience, for progressive change.
• Bernie has placed the issue of America’s corrupt campaign finance system front and center on the political agenda. And he’s done it not only with words but with deeds, raising over $200 million from over 8 million individual contributions averaging $27, while Hillary has relied on larger contributions and several Super PACs. Until millionaires, billionaires and corporations are no longer allowed to buy our elections, it’s unlikely that we will solve any of the nation’s serious problems. Bernie is leading the way.
• Bernie has made “democratic socialism” a word that can now be spoken in polite company. 42% of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers identified themselves as socialists. A year ago, I doubt if the number would have been 4%. Increasingly, younger people reject unfettered, unregulated neoliberal forms of capitalism and are looking for an alternative. Bernie has started to provide one.
• Bernie has set the political agenda for the Democratic Party and the progressive movement while Hillary has followed meekly behind. He has made the issue of economic inequality one of the pressing issues of our times. Raising the minimum wage to $15; guaranteeing healthcare to all Americans; making it possible for every student who wants it to get a free college education at a public institution; increasing social security benefits by lifting the cap on social security taxes for wealthy taxpayers; creating well-paying jobs by investing in our crumbling infrastructure; taxing Wall Street transactions; breaking up the biggest banks who tanked the economy and threw millions out of work; opposing corporate-friendly trades deals that send American jobs overseas: These are the winning issues for Democrats. Hillary and the Democratic Party would be wise to appropriate much of Bernie’s programs if they want to defeat Trump and win over voters who’ve been left out of the neoliberal global economy.
• Bernie has emphasized that climate change is the existential issue of our times. He opposes fracking. And he wants to put a tax on carbon. Adequately addressing climate change could literally determine the future of the human race on this planet.
Peter Rosenstein’s Huffington Post article scornfully concludes, “Bernie you LOST…While you have achieved your fifteen minutes of fame and made a real difference in the discussion if you want to actually make a difference on the issues you care about you will gracefully leave the stage [sic].”
If the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign adopt Rosenstein’s arrogant and demeaning attitude towards Bernie and his supporters, they will make it likely that fewer of Bernie’s supporters will turn out to pull the lever for Hillary and defeat Trump.
Concern over disaffected workers being swayed by radical rhetoric spurs an international call to action from labor groups
May 11, 2016 – Concerned about the rise of right-wing extremism and how it has preyed on the fears of working people across the world, labor leaders from nearly a dozen countries met in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to declare the need for a "global New Deal" to fight these forces.
"Too many politicians in the U.S. and Europe are exploiting our differences and inciting hate and division," said Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO, which organized the day-long forum along with its non-union affiliate, Working America, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German political foundation associated with the Social Democratic Party.
Highlighting the unique position of the international labor movement to combat extremism, labor representatives traveled from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the UK to strategize about how best to counter the appeal of far-right rhetoric to voters frustrated by years of gross inequality and, instead, harness that energy to advance workers’ rights and values.
"Income inequality is a global problem that should unite all leaders; it should not give rise to right wing extremism and building walls," Trumka continued. "We must come together to focus on common issues like raising wages and creating good jobs. Political tactics that scapegoat hardworking immigrants and refugees only serve to pit workers against one another, while ignoring the corporate excess that created these problems."
The forum—which was convened as a reaction to the ascendancy of Donald Trump in the U.S., the National Democratic Party (NDP) in Germany, the National Front in France, Greece’s Golden Dawn Party, and others—"illustrates the extent to which progressive movements across the developed world have begun to view the far right as a common, and urgent, threat," Huffington Post reported.
In fact, as the anti-union think tank Capital Research recently noted, mainstream Republicans who have expressed reservations over Trump’s nomination also see "political opportunity" with the possibility that blue collar workers and so-called "Trump Democrats" will "gravitate toward the GOP—perhaps putting states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota into play in the Electoral College."
Underscoring that possibility, a poll released Tuesday showed Trump essentially tied with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in key swing states, including Pennsylvania.
Chinese worker inspecting solar panels
Marxism offers tool to address contemporary ecological crises
By Niu DongJie, Ming Haiying
Chinese Social Sciences Today
May 6, 2016
Zhang Yunfei was born in 1963 in Fengzhen City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He attended Renmin University of China, where he earned a doctorate in philosophy. Currently, he is a professor at the university’s School of Marxism Studies and a doctoral supervisor in basic principles of Marxism.
The concept of ecological Marxism emerged in the mid-20th century as theorists sought to transcend the capitalist system while resolving mankind’s conflict with nature and realizing true human freedom. A reporter from Chinese Social Sciences Today (CSST) sat down with Zhang Yunfei to talk about ecological Marxism and how it can be applied in a contemporary context to realize sustainable social development.
CSST: What are the connections between the ecological Marxism and Marxism?
Zhang: The connections between the two are viewed from three perspectives.
Some see ecological Marxism as orthodox Marxism. Based on Marxist texts and the history of the discipline, some theorists tried to explore the resources involving ecological thought in Marxism and established a framework of ecological thinking within Marxism. Marxism thus can serve to solve ecological issues.
Others view it as revisionary Marxism. Some scholars thought that Marxism didn’t offer solutions to the issue of “alienated consumption,” which is the cause of ecological crisis. Therefore, a view on ecological issues should be supplementary to Marxism. Other scholars contended that Marxism only dealt with the first contradiction—between productive forces and productive relations—while neglecting the contradiction between them and production conditions, but the second contradiction is the source of ecological crisis.
Hence, the second contradiction became the starting point for ecological Marxism. In fact, Marx and Engels have touched upon these issues. They just didn’t give a clear and detailed explanation of them. To introduce an ecological approach is a revision of Marxism, but the theory is not necessarily “revisionism.”
The third perspective is that ecological Marxism is an innovation of Marxism. After examining the ecological dilemmas facing mankind, some scholars have proposed various theoretical schemas and practical plans to resolve ecological problems and strive for sustainable development, sticking to the stance of Marxism while combining the viewpoints and methods of Marxism with practice in environment protection. In this way, the ecological thinking in Marxism can be enriched and developed.
CSST: Can ecological problems be radically solved through ecological Marxism?
Zhang: In terms of the means of production, ecological Marxism opposes private ownership, especially capitalist private ownership. American scholar Joel Kovel criticized the neoliberalism preached by advocates of the “Tragedy of the Commons” theory. For the purposes of production, John Bellamy Foster, author of Marx’s Ecology, argued that basic needs and long-term environmental protection should be emphasized. When it comes to distribution, Foster held that only by adhering to “environmental equality” can environmental movements avoid becoming alienated from the working class, who stand firm against capitalism in terms of the means of production. James O’Connor argued that the essence of bourgeois justice is “distributive justice,” while productive justice is the aim of ecological socialism.
Ecological Marxism replaces capitalism with socialism as an economic model, which facilitates the ultimate solution of ecological problems. Only by adhering to the notion of popular sovereignty can the ecological transformation of society be achieved.
As for a cultural model, ecological Marxism sees the impact of culture reforms on harmony between humans and nature. Mechanistic thinking, a major factor that leads to ecological problems, should be converted to ecological thinking. Kovel held that to have an ecological understanding is to recognize the fact that humans are part of nature and inseparable from their environment. In terms of values, Foster pointed out that the perspective should be people oriented and focused on poor people in particular. Kovel argued that justice is essential to the mission of liberating the workforce and relieving ecological crisis.
As for social models, ecological Marxism has observed the severity of ecological crisis brought by high consumption in capitalist consumer society, and thus calls for reasonable and ecological consumption. In addition, as the basic unit of society and life, communities directly affect the efficiency of ecological management. Therefore, ecological Marxism emphasizes community and advocates community justice. However, some eco-socialists equte community with anarchism, which should be dealt with based on special cases.
Socialist environmentalist Fred Magdoff put forth a general model for “harmony culture.” “Harmony culture is equal to socialism plus the economic goal of meeting the basic needs of humanity while protecting the environment plus equality in essence plus simplicity in life.” This model is quite inspiring for the establishment of a sound ecological system in socialist society.
CSST: Does ecological Marxism face any limitations or dilemmas in theory and in practice?
Zhang: There are several problems facing the development of Marxism. First, Marxist philosophical ontology is not unified or clear. Realizing this, Kovel introduced the concept of “intrinsic value” of eco-centrism into Marxism, contending that ecological Marxism refers to achieving intrinsic value through a socialist means. However, eco-centrism belongs to the realm of green thought, which does not involve politics, whereas ecological Marxism pertains to red thought, which is dedicated to political issues. Therefore, there are theoretical and political barriers to integrating the two concepts. In addition, issues concerning ecological Marxism are mostly debated using historical materialism, while dialectics of nature are seldom referenced.
Second, emphasis should be placed on constructing a sound ecological system in China. The perception of ecological civilization, the creation of Marxism in a Chinese context, is an innovative development in Marxist ecological thought. Socialist ecological construction in China is an innovation to achieve this goal. Therefore, as Chinese scholars need Marxism as guiding principle, ecological Marxism need to be devoted to Chinese practices. “Organic Marxism” recently proposed by some American scholars highlighted the construction of socialist ecological civilization in China.
CSST: What efforts should be made to promote Marxist ecology studies in China?
Zhang: First, most research on ecological Marxism centers on the thoughts of representative figures, while not many touched on introducing general theoretical logic and contributions. Therefore, what we need now is a comprehensive comparative research perspective and an overall grasp of ecological Marxism to find out its significance relative to global Marxism as a whole.
Second, past research was mostly concerned with the theoretical contributions of ecological Marxism, but more attention should be paid to praxis. Future research worthy of investigation includes ecological Marxism and the Western environment movement, the relationship between environmental NGOs and the Green Party, and whether these NGOs have driven the ecological management in the West to effectively prevent ecological damage caused by capitalism. It is essential to introduce the fruits of ecological Marxism into Chinese practice while pondering the role ecological Marxism has played in global ecological management.
Of course, we must consider all the difficulties and disadvantages facing ecological Marxism. The construction of an ecological society should be promoted by running with rather than nitpicking the theory.
The origins of ecological Marxism can be traced to O’Connor’s (1988) article, “Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Theoretical Introduction,” which he wrote as an introduction to the new journal he founded, “Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Journal of Socialist Ecology.” In setting up this argument, O’Connor referred to the 1944 book, The Great Transformation, by Karl Polanyi, who O’Connor notes examined the ways in which capitalism destroys nature as one of its inherent contradictions. Polanyi’s works point out that there are limits to economic growth attached to ecological factors, an idea that resurfaced in the 1970s in limits to growth arguments. Those ecological limits to growth are the factors that impede the relentless effort of capital to grow, and present a barrier to the ideological claim of capitalism regarding limitless growth potential.
As an economist, O’Connor well understood the traditional Marxist arguments about economic crisis and the forms in which those crises appear under capitalism. Previously, he had made significant contributions to that literature. In proposing an ecological Marxism, O’Connor sought to move beyond traditional crisis theories of capitalism (e.g., under consumption, over production, the realization of surplus value, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, the extension of credit, wage deflation, etc.,.). While these issues remain important and useful to ecological Marxism, ecological Marxism directs its attention to the “capitalization of nature.” Part of that view relates to the ways in which the distribution of ownership in capitalist society affects access to nature and its raw materials and forces access to raw materials to become class linked. Another important aspect of this argument involves the ways in which capitalism produces adverse ecological conditions that threaten its stability along with the stability of nature.
—An excerpt from a online databse Green Criminology, by Michael J. Lynch, University of South Florida
Niu DongJie and Ming Haiying are reporters at the Chinese Social Sciences Today.
By Robert Reich
Alternet via USW Blog
Why is there so little discussion about one of Bernie Sanders’s most important proposals – to tax financial speculation?
Buying and selling stocks and bonds in order to beat others who are buying and selling stocks and bonds is a giant zero-sum game that wastes countless resources, uses up the talents of some of the nation’s best and brightest, and subjects financial market to unnecessary risk.
High-speed traders who employ advanced technologies in order to get information a millisecond before other traders get it don’t make financial markets more efficient. They make them more vulnerable to debacles like the “Flash Crash” of May 2010.
Wall Street Insiders who trade on confidential information unavailable to small investors don’t improve the productivity of financial markets. They just rig the game for themselves.
Bankers who trade in ever more complex derivatives – making bets on bets – don’t add real value. They only make the system more vulnerable to big losses, as occurred in the financial crisis of 2008.
All of which makes Bernie Sanders’s proposal for a speculation tax right on the mark.
He wants to tax stock trades at a rate of 0.5 percent (a trade of $1,000 would cost of $5), and bond trades at 0.1 percent.
The tax would reduce incentives for high-speed trading, insider deal-making, and short-term financial betting. (Hillary Clinton also favors a financial transactions tax but only on high-speed trading.)
Another big plus: Given the gargantuan size of the financial market and the huge volume of trading occurring within it every day, this tiny tax would generate lots of revenue.
Even a 0.01 percent transaction tax (a basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point, or 0.01 percent) would raise $185 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Sanders’s 0.5 percent tax could thereby finance public investments that enlarge the economic pie rather than merely rearrange its slices – like tuition-free public education.
By Joshua Koritz
April 14, 2016 – On April 1, over 100 people packed a room near O’Hare Airport in Chicago in advance of the biennial Labor Notes conference. Reports were shared from union locals across the country – all reflecting the still growing momentum for Bernie Sanders within the labor movement. Though the internal situations differ, veterans of the labor movement were all astonished at how quickly Labor for Bernie has grown and gathered endorsements.
Labor for Bernie has had enormous success: it has nearly 30,000 likes on Facebook, five major national unions have endorsed Sanders as well as nearly 100 other union locals. Most recently, Sanders won the endorsement of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). This groundswell of support, unfortunately, stands in sharp contrast to the role of a number of union leaders who rushed to back Hillary Clinton and, in many cases, gave their own membership no opportunity to express their views democratically.
Speakers and participants arrived from around the country including Seattle socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant. Many raised the importance of continuing the network that Labor for Bernie has started after the Democratic primary. There was talk of independent electoral politics and building a lasting alternative, however it was guarded and speculative. To huge applause, Kshama called for labor to make a jailbreak out of supporting corporate Democrats and to run its own candidates. An important element of the forces that could be gathered to form a workers’ party was visibly represented in the room.
National Nurses United (NNU) and California Nurses Association (CNA) Director of Public Policy Michael Lighty explained the top issue for the NNU; “Medicare for all is at the forefront. It is unconscionable that a Democrat [Clinton] can be running saying, ‘We’ll never get single payer.’”
Reports from unions around the country included the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), Minnesota Nurses Association, the American Postal Workers Union, United Electrical Workers (UE), New York State Nurses Association, New Jersey Industrial Council, and Unite Here Local 2 in San Francisco. Experiences and internal situations vary widely from the NNU which endorsed Bernie nationally, to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) which decided on no national endorsement and has let its locals decide their own endorsements. From AFSCME Council 28 in Washington state which went against its international endorsement to back Bernie, to the CWA which did an online poll of its members and now backs Bernie. (Continued)