A disdain for the natural environment has characterized capitalism from the beginning. As Marx noted, capital abuses the soil as much as it exploits the worker. The makings of ecological breakdown are thus inherent in capitalism. No serious observer now denies the severity of the environmental crisis, but it is still not widely recognized as a capitalist crisis, that is, as a crisis arising from and perpetuated by the rule of capital, and hence incapable of resolution within the capitalist framework.
If I were asked to sum up the significance of István Mészáros for our time, I would have to follow President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela in referring to him as the “Pathfinder of Socialism.” His work…provides a strategic vision of the building of socialism, the absence of which, for many decades, constituted one of the principal weaknesses of the anti-capitalist movement, worldwide.
I was nineteen when I joined the Black Panther Party and was introduced to the realities of life in inner-city Black America.…From the security of the college campus and the cocoon of the great American Dream Machine, I was suddenly stripped of my rose-colored glasses by a foray into Harlem and indecent housing, police brutality, hungry children needing to be fed, elderly people eating out of garbage cans, and hopelessness and despair everywhere. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I would never have believed that this was America. It looked and sounded like one of those undeveloped Third World countries.
“When Chávez speaks, we listen. But we don’t listen to those around him.” This comment by a community activist interviewed by Iain Bruce, and integrated into his wonderful exploration of the Bolivarian Revolution from below, points to an essential characteristic — the unique link at present (“por ahora”) between Hugo Chávez and the exploited and excluded of Venezuela.
As this issue goes to press, the Copenhagen climate summit, which Nicholas Stern, author of The Economics of Climate Change, has referred to as “the most important meeting since the Second World War,” is about to begin. The summit was supposed to herald a new global climate treaty, to replace the failed and expiring Kyoto Protocol. The goal was to create an ambitious, binding international agreement on emissions reductions. Yet, barely a week before its commencement (as we write this) it seems destined to fail.
It is now universally recognized within science that humanity is confronting the prospect—if we do not soon change course—of a planetary ecological collapse. Not only is the global ecological crisis becoming more and more severe, with the time in which to address it fast running out, but the dominant environmental strategies are also forms of denial, demonstrably doomed to fail, judging by their own limited objectives. This tragic failure, I will argue, can be attributed to the refusal of the powers that be to address the roots of the ecological problem in capitalist production and the resulting necessity of ecological and social revolution.
Climate change has brought the global environmental crisis to its crux. The primary point that must be noted is that the pace of climate change is accelerating much more rapidly than had been forecast. Accumulation of carbon dioxide, rising temperatures, melting of the polar ice caps and of the “eternal snows,” droughts, floods: all are speeding up and previous scientific analyses, the ink scarcely dry, turn out to have been too optimistic. More and more, in projections for the next one, two, or three decades, the highest estimates are becoming accepted minima. And to that must be added the all-too-little-studied amplifying factors that today pose the risk of a qualitative leap in the greenhouse effect leading to runaway global warming.
The Italian communist philosopher Antonio Gramsci makes, in his Prison Notebooks, the following insightful remarks regarding the character of critical work and reflection. He states: “The beginning of a critical elaboration is the consciousness of that which really is, that is to say a ‘knowing of yourself’ as a product of the process of history that has unfolded thus far and has left in you, yourself, an infinity of traces collected without the benefit of an inventory. It is necessary initially to make such an inventory.” In what follows I will undertake such a task.
The unspeakable, overwhelming evil of the Holocaust is a necessary element in any attempt to understand the history of modern Israel. The deliberate, systematic annihilation of six million Jews in Europe, after centuries of intermittent persecution and pogroms, led many Jews around the world to conclude, along with those who had already moved to Palestine since the late nineteenth century, that only in a homeland of their own would they have security.…The fundamental problem that haunts Jews and Palestinians to this day is that the land was already occupied, and the Jewish immigrants had to take it by force.
John Malpede has never worried much about transgressing the line between brave and crazy. Otherwise, he would not have started a theater company in Skid Row Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, when few services existed there, and most people, including his own theater members, predicted the idea would never fly. Nor would he have thought it a cool idea to join members of his L.A. troupe with Bolivian actors this August to tour Bolivia—where coca is a major cash crop—with a play about the War on Drugs.