August 2017Theory

Marx Probably Can't Help Us Understand the Climate Crisis

Below are some comments from me about the possible Meeting Topics that were laid out in DSA's recent Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee announcement.

Among the proposed discussion topics: A second possibility is a presentation and discussion on how nature and environmental issues were conceptualized by Marx, from his "materialist" philosophical standpoint, and implications a Marxist and materialist approach to environmental questions have for socialist practice today.

Well, some may think that this is a bit of a vague and not-very-helpful proposal. I certainly do. Karl Marx was a brilliant person, and is a bedrock piece of the left's thinking. But he spoke of his time, and to his time. I do not recall that he had any words to offer about climate change, and especially, about our current environmental problems. The situation that we all have -- all of us -- today, is different from earlier events, and is completely unprecedented. And very dangerous. So, if some people are claiming to speak for Marx, or are using his name to advance their wishes, we need to remain as skeptical in discussion as we would with anyone else. It might be wiser for us to employ good progressive analytical methods, based on good learning; and then look at the basic facts. And after that, go on to inspect, in detail, the reality of our world, and address our society's needs. The needs of today, 2017.

Using the question "What would Marx do?" is just about as foolish as asking "What would Jesus do?" It tries to look to some outside "almighty" agent to give us a solution. This is basically unwise; basically irrational. Being put forward by people still living with an authoritarian mindset, wanting an authoritarian world. Instead, we need to frankly look at the overall situation, look at the data collected, and look at the various solutions, or paths -- pathways that have been put forth by thoughtful, dedicated, and caring individuals. Avenues that we might take to work at correcting (or at least mitigating) the terrible problems facing us. And this means: using our collective reasoning, with discussions, to plan the best forward-road of action to take. Will there be disagreements? Sure. We just do our best. But we need to see that the human species is wrecking our planet's biosphere, our home; this should be our first order of business.

Many of the Marxists that I know look at human growth the same way that the Corporate Right looks at it: with a narrow vision, looking only at purported benefits, without taking in the larger picture. Most of these traditional-left talkers are well-intentioned. Some come from the authoritarian world of the bible-religions, where they learned their analytical methods; and they may not have the breath of mind to see beyond what has been previously laid out, previously stated.

DSA has a "big-tent" way of operating (very smart, IMHO), but it might be wise to keep eyes open when some people are putting forth the idea that one perspective is automatically the correct way of dealing with our world. There is this simple fact, which I also saw many years ago, and is pretty much the same as I see today:  Many of those talking Marx appear to be internally traditionalist, sometimes closed-minded; and controlling. Plus, there is the reality that, today, the right-wing element (the bad-guys with the money), who run most of our world, love to talk Marx (to scare people), and to also deflect any useful or detailed talk about today's issues and needs. And especially, to avoid detailed discussion of the real ways to fix our economic imbalances; and the lack of wise growth within our society. Most of the Marxists talk abstract. We need to talk real-world for the betterment of our society, and for all the people in our society.

The reality now is that the underlying reasons for our environmental problems are: human overpopulation, and human overuse of the planet. In particular, over-feeding; and not sharing the food, and space, with other species. Until this reality is acknowledged, there can be no real, effective solutions. Our human population needs to drop. Many Marxists now do claim that this means keeping the masses down, not permitting growth within the third-world countries. This is a stupid way of thinking. We must stop human growth everywhere: in the developed countries, in the partially developed, and in the undeveloped nations. Everywhere. Especially if we want to (as we should want to) create a decent life for those who are now living in poverty.

The people who set up the Bible-based religions did not anticipate this overpopulation; the progressives of the 19th century did not anticipate this huge growth of the human species. It simply happened. Many old-thinking leftists say that the current problem is just caused by the wasteful ways of the modern developed, capitalist world. Yes. But this behavior was the main reason 60 years ago, is only partly the reason today. Now, at present, the enormous growth, everywhere, is the larger and more-pressing reason.

For the Left, there is, I believe, this important detail to see: We should not be using Marx, and his writings, as a departure point for merely creating intellectual exercises. The real word has specific problems. There is specific suffering. We need to apply what we know, and look at what has happened, before then acting with sensible plans. And this means that we must make major changes within our society, and not just accept crumbs from Corporate America.

Most of the Environmental Movement in the U.S. is now accustomed to accepting these crumbs. This has been developing over the past 25 years. It is sadly wrong, and foolish.

 

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