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Marxism & ecology

A Marxist perspective on sustainability: Brief reflections on ecological sustainability and social inequality

 

 

By Raju J Das[1]

 

February 18, 2018
 Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal   Karl Marx’s concept of sustainability is connected to his concepts of metabolism and reproduction. While the first connection is well recognized in recent literature (famously in the work of Paul Burkett, John Bellamy Foster and many others)[2], the second connection is not. Moreover, sustainability is potentially connected to another crucial concept in Marx’s thinking – that is, value of labour power (which is expressed as the wage that workers receive), although Marx fails to explicitly make that connection.

 

In this short paper, I connect sustainability to metabolism, reproduction, and value of labour power. I argue that sustainability (or a healthy environment) can be seen as an “ecological social wage” under capitalism and has to be fought for as a part of a larger fight against the various logics of capitalism, such as endless accumulation, and against the system as a whole. Therefore, ecological sustainability is fundamentally a class issue, one that concerns the working class of the world as a whole that is comprised of people with different gender, racial, and nationality backgrounds, and it is not to be narrowly seen as an ecological issue, separate from the needs and the movements of the working class.

 

Do seven cheap things explain the history of capitalism?

 

 

 

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things:
A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore
University of California Press, 2017

 

Reviewed by Ian Angus

 

February 14, 2018 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Climate & Capitalism — Every airport bookstore features books with titles like 10 Ways to Retire Rich, 150 Places You Must Visit Before You Die, or 8 Easy Steps to a Flatter Tummy, with the numbers in very large type on their covers. They are the publishing ­equivalent of junk food, quickie books written to match titles that were invented by the marketing department to generate impulse purchases. The authors and publisher of A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things must have had such books in mind when they chose its title and designed its cover. Although it is by no means an airport quickie book, it shares their principal defect: the title promises a lot, but the book doesn’t deliver.

 

Women, nature, and capital in the Industrial Revolution

 

 

By John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark

 

January 30, 2018 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Monthly Review — The remarkable rise in recent years of “social reproduction theory” within the Marxist and revolutionary feminist traditions, identified with the studies of such figures as Johanna Brenner, Heather Brown, Paresh Chattopadhyay, Silvia Federici, Susan Ferguson, Leopoldina Fortunati, Nancy Fraser, Frigga Haug, David McNally, Maria Mies, Ariel Salleh, Lise Vogel, and Judith Whitehead—to name just a few—has significantly altered how we look at Karl Marx’s (and Frederick Engels’s) treatment of women and work in nineteenth-century Britain.[1] Three conclusions with respect to Marx’s analysis are now so well established by contemporary scholarship that they can be regarded as definitive facts: (1) Marx made an extensive, detailed examination of the exploitation of women as wage slaves within capitalist industry, in ways that were crucial to his overall critique of capital; (2) his assessment of women’s working conditions was seriously deficient with regard to housework or reproductive labor;[2] and (3) central to Marx’s (and Engels’s) outlook in the mid-nineteenth century was the severe crisis and threatened “dissolution” of the working-class family—to which the capitalist state in the late nineteenth century was compelled to respond with an ideology of protection, forcing women in large part back into the home.[3]

 

The long ecological revolution

 

 

By John Bellamy Foster

 

December 2, 2017
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Monthly ReviewAside from the stipulation that nature follows certain laws, no idea was more central to the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, and to the subsequent development of what came to be known as modern science, than that of the conquest, mastery, and domination of nature. Up until the rise of the ecological movement in the late twentieth century, the conquest of nature was a universal trope, often equated with progress under capitalism (and sometimes socialism). To be sure, the notion, as utilized in science, was a complex one. As Francis Bacon, the idea’s leading early proponent, put it, “nature is only overcome by obeying her.” Only by following nature’s laws, therefore, was it possible to conquer her.

John Bellamy Foster answers five questions about Marxism and ecology

 
 
Introduction by Ian Angus

 

March 30, 2017
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Climate & CapitalismThe Indian website Ecologise recently published John Bellamy Foster’s Foreword to my book Facing the Anthropocene. Commenting on Foster’s article, journalist and activist Saral Sarkar, who describes his views as eco-socialist, raised questions that challenge the usefulness of Marxist analysis in understanding the global ecological crisis. Foster’s reply was posted by Ecologise on March 26.

 

Ecology or catastrophe: the life of Murray Bookchin

 

 

Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin
By Janet Biehl, Oxford University Press, New York, 2015

 

Review by Simon Butler

 

August 1, 2016 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – Just days before the US entered World War II in 1941, a 20-year-old New Yorker and radical political activist named Murray Bookchin was looking forward to beginning work as a seafarer. Inspired by romantic notions of life at sea conveyed by writers such as the socialist novelist Jack London, Bookchin was keen to trade his arduous job in a New Jersey iron foundry for something more adventurous.

 

The night before he was due to ship out Bookchin’s worried friends took him out for a farewell drink or three. They succeeded in getting him boisterously drunk – so drunk that, as intended, Bookchin was in no shape to report for work the next morning and missed the boat. Not long afterwards the first of many US merchant ships were sunk in the Atlantic by German U-boats. It soon became apparent that Bookchin’s friends had saved his life.

 

John Bellamy Foster answers three questions on Marxism and ecology

 

In the present planetary epoch, the concept of sustainable human development, as a way of conceiving of socialism, represents Marx’s most valuable legacy. No other ecological analysis has such breadth and power.

 

April 18, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Climate & Capitalism -- John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review. His most recent book, written with Paul Burkett, is Marx and the Earth: An Anti-Critique (Brill, 2016). The French magazine La Revue du Projet asked him to reply to three questions on ecology and Marxism.

 

Michael Löwy discusses Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical Laudati Si’, ecosocialism and left unity in Europe today

 

Michael Löwy

 

February 19,2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Michael Löwy is a militant of the French section of the Fourth International. His wide-ranging interests include, in part, the connection between the Romantic movement and Marxism, ecosocialism, Liberation Theology and questions of art and culture.

 

His many publications (in various languages) include The Marxism of Che Guevara, Georg Lukács: from Romanticism to Bolshevism, The war of gods: Religion and Politics in Latin America, Fatherland or Mother Earth? Essays on the national question and Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History'.

 

This interview was conducted by Barry Healy via the internet in February, 2016.

 

***

 

You have written that Pope Francis’ Laudato Si is of “world historic importance”.

 

Why do you see this encyclical as different from previous Vatican documents and what significance do you see it having for Catholics in particular? What are the Encyclical’s strengths and weaknesses?

 

The Tragedies of the Global Commons and the Global Working Class: Reflections on the Papal Encyclical

Michael A. Lebowitz (pictured) will be one of the keynote speakers at Socialism for the 21st century: Moving beyond capitalism, learning from global struggles being held in Sydney on May 13-15.

By Michael A. Lebowitz

Links International Journal of Socialist RenewalAn earlier version of this paper was presented at ‘The First World Congress on Marxism’ at Peking University, 10 October 2015 in Beijing, China.

‘On Care for Our Common Home’: the premises

Everybody is talking about it — the dangers presented by climate change. Adding significantly, though, to the emphasis upon the need to take dramatic action now has been Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical Laudati Si’, ‘On Care for our Common Home’. Its over-riding theme is that we must ‘protect our common home’. ‘The climate,’ the document stresses, ‘is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all’ and is ‘linked to many of the essential conditions for human life’ (23). Not only, however, are we destroying those conditions but, ‘the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth’ (21). How is it, the Encyclical asks, that we have ‘so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years’ (53)?

Ecological crisis: Tragedy of the commons or tragedy of the commodity?

This essay is based on the new book The Tragedy of the Commodity: Oceans Fisheries and Aquaculture by Stefano B. Longo, Rebecca Clausen, and Brett Clark, published by Rutgers University Press (2015).
This essay is based on The Tragedy of the Commodity: Oceans Fisheries and Aquaculture by Stefano B. Longo, Rebecca Clausen and Brett Clark, (Rutgers University Press 2015).

By Stefano B. Longo and Brett Clark

July 21, 2015 -- Climate and Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- We live in an era of ecological crisis, which is a direct result of human actions. Natural scientists have been debating whether the current historical epoch should be called the Anthropocene, in order to mark the period in which human activities became the primary driver of global ecological change.[1]

John Bellamy Foster: Is China building an 'ecological civilisation'?

Air pollution in China's major cities is among the world's most severe.

By John Bellamy Foster

June 12, 2015 -- Monthly Review, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- China's leadership has called in recent years for the creation of a new "ecological civilisation". Some have viewed this as a departure from Marxism and a concession to Western-style "ecological modernisation".

However, embedded in classical Marxism, as represented by the work of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, was a powerful ecological critique. Marx explicitly defined socialism in terms consistent with the development of an ecological society or civilisation -- or, in his words, the "rational" regulation of "the human metabolism with nature".

'Une planète trop peuplée?' Preface to the French edition of 'Too Many People?'

Une Planete Trop Peuplee

December 17, 2014 -- Capitalism & Climate, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Québec publisher Les Éditions Écosociété has translated and published the book that Simon Butler and Ian Angus co-wrote, Too Many People? Population, Immigration and the Environmental Crisis (Haymarket Books, 2011).

The French edition, titled Une planète trop peuplée? Le mythe populationniste, l’immigration et la crise écologique, features a new preface by Serge Mongeau, who is the founder of Écosociété and was a candidate for Québec solidaire in the 2008 Québec general election.

Below is a translation of that preface, followed by the original French text, both published with permission from Les Éditions Écosociété.

Preface to the French edition of Too Many People?

By Serge Mongeau, translated by Ian Angus, with assistance from Richard Fidler

Why greens must be red and reds must be green

November 16, 2014 -- Climate & Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- In these videos Ian Angus argues for a movement based on socialist and ecological principles, to save humanity and the rest of nature from capitalist ecocide.

Angus is editor of Climate & Capitalism, a founding member of the Ecosocialist International Network, co-author of the Belem Ecosocialist Declaration and editor of The Global Fight for Climate Justice. The presentation, delivered in Ottawa, Ontario, on November 16, 2014, was organised and co-sponsored by Ottawa Ecosocialists and Ottawa Socialist Project. It was recorded and edited by Albert Dupuis.

In part one, Ian Angus’s talk is introduced by Richard Fidler, who writes and blogs at Life on the Left. In part two, the question and answer period is chaired by Peter Gose, professor of sociology at Carleton University.

‘Socialism or barbarism’: An important socialist slogan traced to its unexpected source

Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg.

By Ian Angus

October 21, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- I think I have solved a small puzzle in socialist history. Climate & Capitalism’s tagline, “Ecosocialism or barbarism: There is no third way”, is based on the slogan, “Socialism or Barbarism”, which Rosa Luxemburg raised to such great effect during World War I and the subsequent German revolution, and which has been adopted by many socialists since then.

The puzzle is: where did the concept come from? Luxemburg’s own account doesn’t hold water, and neither do the attempts of left-wing scholars to explain (or explain away) the confusion in her explanation.

Fred Magdoff: Some suggestions for an ecologically sound and socially just economy

[Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal urges its readers to consider taking out a subscription to Monthly Review, where this article first appeared. Click HERE for more on Marxism and ecology.]

By Fred Magdoff

September 2014 -- Monthly Review, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Two weeks ago I returned from my fiftieth class reunion at Oberlin College in Ohio. The brief discussions I had there with environmental faculty and students left me feeling a bit dazed. So many good and intelligent people, so concerned, and doing what they think and hope will help heal the environment—this college has one of the best environmental education programs in the country.

Two reviews: ‘Confronting Injustice: Social Activism in the Age of Individualism’

Review by John Riddell

April 21, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- A new and outstanding book by Umair Muhammad, Confronting Injustice: Social Activism in the Age of Individualism, presents a strong case for the necessity of socialism to counter the impending calamity of global warming.

Muhammad, an MA student at York University in Toronto, ends his 174-page text by quoting anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin: “The bold thought first, and the bold deed will not fail to follow.” Confronting Injustice is indeed bold in exposing all the market-based evasions and half-measures urged upon those seeking to end environmental destruction.

Muhammad is keenly aware of how hard it is for the newly radicalised to find a personal path in the face of immense social contradictions. The first half of his book responds to the issue posed by its subtitle, “Social Activism in the Age of Individualism”, presenting an extended discussion of moral philosophy for social activists.

Age of individualism/age of conformity

Martin Empson's 'Land and Labour': A Marxist view of ecology and human history

Land & Labour: Marxism, Ecology and Human History
By Martin Empson
London: Bookmarks Publications, 2014

Review by Simon Butler

April 4, 2014 -- Climate & Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- With several serious global environmental crises bearing down on us, the question of our age must be “what can we do?” Martin Empson urges us to look into the past and into the future for answers in his new book, Land and Labour. His message is that human destruction of its environment is not inevitable, although it is very likely if we don’t draw upon the best and worst examples from humanity’s diverse experience.

He writes:

John Bellamy Foster: Marx and the rift in the universal metabolism of nature

[Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal urges its readers to consider taking out a subscription to Monthly Review, where this article first appeared. Click HERE for more on Marxism and ecology. For more by John Bellamy Foster, click HERE.]

* * *

By John Bellamy Foster

[This article is an expanded and slightly altered version of a keynote address under the same title presented to the Marxism 2013 Conference in Stockholm on October 20, 2013. That address built on ideas introduced in the author’s Rosa Luxemburg Lecture, “The Great Rift,” presented to the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in Berlin on May 28, 2013.]

Unite union leader on the struggle against climate change, and for socialism

Mike Treen on the picket line. If trade unions take up the challenge, they could become “the voice for a boldly different economic model, one that provides solutions to the attacks on working people, on poor people, and the attacks on the Earth itself".

By Mike Treen, national director of the Unite union (New Zealand)

December 2, 2013 -- Daily Blog, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- The continuing pretense that world governments will do anything about climate change was exposed once more at the latest round of climate negotiations held in Poland November 11-22. This was the 19th round of annual negotiations.

It is 21 years since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Emissions are 60-70% higher than they were then. Global warming has proceeded at an accelerating pace. As a great article by economic historian Richard Smith notes:

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