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December 5, 2018
By Joseph Green, Detroit Workers'
The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) was released Nov. 26 by a department of the federal government. (1) It comes a month after a Special Report from the UN's climate agency on how time is running out to prevent utter disaster. (2) These reports paint a devastating picture of the dangers facing us. They provide abundant and documented evidence of the reality of human-caused climate change, and utterly refute the climate denialism of Donald Trump and the rightist know-nothings. While Trump's minions encourage corporations to pollute at will, the NCA4 was put out by scientists who have a backbone. The NCA4 can't criticize the government directly, but every word shows how Trump and the pro-corporate conservatives are lying sleazebags that, for their present enrichment, are threatening the basic conditions of human life.
But what does the report suggest we should do about the problem? It praises various measures currently being taken in the US to lower carbon emissions, talks about the "risks of inaction", and suggests we need to do more. But other than a fully justified skepticism about geoengineering, it has little to say about the failure of many of the current methods, and those proposed by capitalist politicians and corporate environmentalists, to live up to their promise. (3) For decades now, the pro-corporate environmentalists have advocated that market methods and pricing mechanisms should replace direct regulation of green house gas emissions. Has that worked or not? The NCA4 is, after all, a government report, and so it won't say.
At the same time that the NCA4 was released, massive demonstrations were taking place in France against fuel tax increases. They have convulsed the country for over three weeks. These "yellow vest" protests (drivers in France are required to carry highly-visible vests in their cars for use in case of emergency) have the sympathy of millions of people in France, who see Macron's version of the carbon tax as another round of intolerable austerity being inflicted upon them. The establishment environmentalists tell us that the carbon tax is what is needed to fight global warming, and the NCA4 says that "emissions pricing (that is, GHG emission fees or emissions caps with permit trading)" is one of the tools to be used to oppose global warming. The French government is using fuel price measures to enforce austerity, but it hides under the environmental pretext. So now the question of what should be done to deal with global warming -- market measures or serious regulatory measures -- is coming sharply to the fore. Do we need major economic planning and mass pressure on the capitalists to have serious measures to save the environment, or should environmentalists woo the big corporations with market measures, at the price of earning the hatred of millions of working people?
Carbon taxes, such as fuel price increases, are market measures.
why the market-worshiping and environment-destroying IMF and World Bank
have been pushing the carbon tax for several years, and why ExxonMobil
and various other major polluters have now come out in favor of
it. The carbon tax is not a tax on energy company profits, but a
sales tax passed on to the consumer; and it's put forward as an
alternative to economic regulation. It's not especially effective, and
it doesn't provide for the development of mass transit or other ways to
cut down on carbon emissions. It's up to the market to develop the
alternatives. This is not to say that some market measures don't (or
can't) reduce carbon emissions a little, only that they have been (and
will be) miserable failures in achieving sufficient reductions. Hence,
at most, they can only be subordinate parts of something bigger, such
as environmental regulations and economic planning, leading to a
compulsory change of the energy infrastructure and of how industry and
agriculture are conducted. However, to achieve such measures, one needs
the enthusiastic cooperation of the workforce in forcing the
corporations to obey the necessary regulations, and checking on whether
they really do. (4)
The French demonstrations aren't dominated by any political party, and have an amorphous character. They reflect the distress and anger of millions of people who are being squeezed, and they are not only about fuel price increases but other austerity measures. Environmentalism has to make a choice. Either side with the struggle of the masses for a decent life, or side with the corporations and the measures that they prefer. The fate of the earth may hinge on the answer.
(1) The Climate Report is from the US Global Change Research Program. It's available at https://www.globalchange.gov/nca4.
(2) The UN report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
(3) See, for instance, "Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize and the failure of corporate environmentalism", http://www.communistvoice.org/41cAlGore.html.
(4) See "The coming of the environmental crisis" at http://www.communistvoice.org/39cKyoto.html. <>
Much of the Western capitalist world is fawning over George H. W. Bush. Fox News and PBS, conservative and liberal, are telling stories about how wonderful Bush was. The upper-class liberals are contrasting him to Donald Trump, and waxing nostalgic for the conservatism of years past.
But who was the 41st president of the US? During his political career, he wasn't the most extreme Republican, but he worked well with all the most vicious conservative standard-bearers of his party, and in this, he faithfully reflected the standpoint of the capitalist class he was born into. He was in turn a "Goldwater Republican", a "Nixon Republican", CIA chief under Ford, vice-president in the Reagan administration for eight years, and then he continued this horrific legacy in his own term as president. In the name of a "kinder, gentler" conservatism, he campaigned for the presidency with the infamous, racist Willie Horton ads. And then, as president, he invaded Iraq and Panama; appointed to the Supreme Court his own version of Brett Kavanaugh, namely Clarence Thomas; continued the austerity drive against the working class; advocated the use of market measures as the supposed solution for environmental problems; etc.
Donald Trump isn't an aberration, but the result of a long development in conservative politics. Barry Goldwater pioneered the "Southern strategy" by which the Republicans replaced the Dixiecrats as the standard-bearers of racist hysteria and crude brutality in establishment politics; Richard Nixon continued it; and without this racist tradition, there would be no Trump presidency. Reagan was the champion of market fundamentalist reaction on all fronts. Bush was one link in a chain leading to utter disaster for the working people and minorities.
The commentators say there is a difference in style between Bush and Trump. And so there was. But what the working class needs is not another change in the style of conservatism, but an end to conservatism; not a "kindler, gentler" racism, militarism, and union-busting, but a renewed working class movement, including determined strikes like those of the long-suffering teachers.
Bush voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. He had helped pave the way for Trump, but he just couldn't stomach him. This was part of the split among the American rich and privileged over Trump. Some of the cynical conservatives say that it doesn't matter how crude Trump is, so long as he gives their capitalist patrons what they want, such as more tax cuts for the rich, more deregulation, more conservative judges, more destruction of social programs; other servants of the corporations are worried that Trump is endangering some long-standing capitalist policies and going too fast. When the establishment media praise Bush as an alternative to Trump, they are saying that there is no alternative to market fundamentalism and the rule of the financial elite. Behind the calls for bipartisanship, is the program of bipartisan cuts in social programs, bipartisan austerity, bipartisan deportations. If it's bipartisan, it's supposedly OK, no matter how much suffering it causes. And when Bush voted for Clinton, it was because she had demonstrated over and over her loyalty to Wall Street, and to the rich and privileged milieu from which Bush came.
It's to the advantage of the people that there is a split in the establishment over Trump, but our interests are fundamentally different from those of either wing of the capitalists. The horrors of the Trump presidency has resulted in a resurgence of mass action and of thought about what is needed. They want something different than what was offered by Bush and Trump. From renewed social programs to socialism, from environmental action to solidarity with the downtrodden around the world, from mass struggle to new organizations, they are striving for an alternative to the past decades. The mass demands that the bourgeoisie had hoped to bury are back again. Bush didn't want these things. The Democratic Party establishment doesn't want them now. The commentators who swoon over Bush think that patrician style is more important than these things.
The media says say we should honor and remember George H. W. Bush; we say that Bush was one of the immoral mouthpieces of the rich who paved the way for the present environmental disaster, for the destruction of social programs, and for the Trump presidency. Let the rich and privileged speak their eulogies for Bush, we will remember that there are two trends in the movement against Trump. It is not Bush we will honor, but Heather Heyer and the unnamed multitudes of workers and poor who stand up for their rights.
By Joseph Green, Detroit Workers' Voice <>
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Posted on January 15, 2018
Some typos have been corrected.