Archive for the 'Environment' Category

two links for tuesday morning reading

Monthly Review, May 2007: Healing the Rift: Metabolic Restoration in Cuban Agriculture, by Rebecca Clauso (Posted with some pre-requisite skepticism about many claims & apologetics about Cuba, which is frankly not a socialist utopia)…

Cuban agriculture over the past thirteen years has worked to reestablish the spatial relationships between nutrient cycles and material exchanges. A key principle of Cuba’s agroecology is the “optimization of local resources and promotion of within-farm synergisms through plant-animal combinations.”

The Cuban model of agriculture recognizes that the artificial divide between mental and manual labor limits the range of opportunities for productive food systems. The goals of a participatory democracy for agricultural decision making have been incorporated into the new farming model, and this is made possible by the new ownership patterns.

and from Cultural Logic,1998:Spinoza and Marx, by Eugene Holland

What follows is in the nature of a thought-experiment. It is well known that Marx was familiar with Spinoza; indeed, he hand-copied whole passages of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus into his notebooks. Less clear is the significance of this fact, and the extent of Spinoza’s influence on Marx’s thought.1 The aim of the experiment here is to deliberately exaggerate the extent of that influence: to think through some of the possible implications of placing Spinoza at the heart of Marx’s endeavor.


Wayne’s Response Re: ‘ecological struggle’

Ed note: this comment was left by Wayne on Ryan’s posting from June 8th.  I’ve moved it to the front page as a full posting.

Beginning the discussion with a critique of stage theory, surprised me, but it is a useful place to start because it is so often seen as the main point of Marxism. Part of the way ideology works is that the critique so often becomes the point it was opposed to in the first place, there is a side of Marxism that becomes the poetry of production, and this has more than one sordid result. Part of the focus of Althusser was to get rid of the narrative elements hidden in the dialectic,i.e. stage theory. However, in getting rid of economism, we have to be careful not to get rid of economics, we live in a world that is capitalist through and through.

The transformation of nature by capitialism produces a lot of comfort but at a high cost. Marxists have had to learn something from the environmental movement that the effects of capitalism are not limited to the work place or to the exploitation of workers. In fairness, one might be able to find a beginning of a theory in Lukacs writings on alienation and, Adorno was, I think, quite explicit in connecting exploitation to the domination of nature, but there is more thinking that needs to be done.

On the other hand, and isn’t there always an other hand, the environmental movement also needs Marxism because capitalism is central to the devastation of the environment. This has always been the case, if we have an image of capitalism in the age of Dickens and Marx, there is a thick layer of soot, that gives that urban environment its’ opaque beauty. Contrary to the pastel pastiche of post-modernist theory, cinema, since Blade Runner, has rather obsessively given visual form to environmental degradation, proletarianization (increased explaitation) and urban decay. Right now the documentary Manufactured Landscapes provides a powerful and beautiful set of images of environmental degradation.

If I may again, just amplify your main points here, there is something in the increased competetiveness of contemporary capitalism that has made life more exploitative and will push more and more against the environment. Because the drive for profitability makes the decisions, production is moved to places with lower costs, the ‘third world’ provides ‘cheap labor’ and virtually no environmental control.

The movement has to be able to question profitability to win: people and the environment need to come before profits. This
is a slight re-write of an old slogan, but it is something that can be understood by regular people and frame the demands of the movement.

In the end, there may be a question of choice between human consumption or living standards and the environment, so there is something fundamentally political about how to think about this.
There is a side of the environmental movement that acts as though it were talking to trees and not people. I try to think like an organizer: we have to persuade people that they cannot breath without the trees. Most people, now recognize, that there is an environmental crisis, but we need to re-frame it: the environment is bigger than we are, it, the environment, will survive, we won’t.

Reforms are fine in themselves, but there questions. Do thereforms work? Who pays?

We need to “act global and think local.” Internationalism is paramount, the problems of the environment and the class struggle are international. We are for globalization, just not one that is destructive. In a capitalist society the market dictates to the state. In this era fo market dictatorship, we need to place controls over a process that is international in scope. Of course, we operate under local conditions but everything and everyone is connected and no one gets out alive.

End of time, for now.