For a working-class environmental movement!

(CV #49, August 2014)

The following article is from Detroit Workers’ Voice #109, Sept. 1, 2013:

Little improvement has been achieved on the environmental front. Natural disasters such as droughts and wildfires, hurricanes and tornadoes, melting of sea ice, the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere and rising world temperatures, the deepening of the Fukushima nuclear crisis – all show the impotence of the environmental measures of the capitalist establishment on a world scale. The corporations aren’t going to do what’s right out of the goodness of their hearts. There must be a force which can fight them success-fully. That force is the working class.

A mass working-class trend within the environmental movement is needed. All the current measures of the establishment environmentalists are market-based; they rely on convincing the polluters they can make more money by not polluting. In contrast, a working-class program would demand serious direct regulation and control and call for radical change in the present privatized government apparatus. Building such a trend is not easy. But we can’t just sit back, let the world be devastated and wait for the revolution to solve the environment for us. Nor will neo-liberal financial capital willingly regulate itself.

Many reformist trends have simply acted as pressure groups for establishment environmentalism. Some more militant environmentalists have built a valuable movement of protest, and have criticized certain market-based measures; but they have backed other market measures and generally have no critique of such major establishment environmental figures as Al Gore. Some environmentalists push a carbon tax, but the burden of a carbon tax will be shifted from the corporations taxed onto the backs of the workers; it must be fought.

Some environmental groups that look to market solutions talk about allying with the working class. They call for subsidies to the capitalists for green projects, call it “green jobs” for the workers, and unite with the pro-capitalist labor leaders. This is sort of the idea of the BlueGreen Alliance of certain environmental groups and trade unions. But this naively hopes that the business class will voluntarily cure the environment.

A working-class class environmental movement will not rely on na´ve hopes. It will demand environmental and economic planning — planning for the welfare of the masses as an independent goal alongside that of protecting the environment. It will mean seeking mass oversight over government planning and environmental decisions and oversight of corporate compliance with environmental regulations. It will denounce the present privatized government apparatus. Without such oversight, the corporations will defy environmental regulations and planning will consist of squeezing the masses.

Working-class victories and planning can only be partial under capitalism, and government bodies will always be subject to regulatory capture. But constant struggle over these will eventually lead to a new revolutionary consciousness in the working class. This protracted struggle can be the bridge between revitalized programs and future utopia. However utopian this idea may seem at the present, it will look different as the world goes through major changes in the next few years. 


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