Sunday 28 January 2018

The Two Drivers of Ecological Collapse and the Two Tasks

After I had posted my essay

For Saving the Earth We Need to Tell the Whole Truth – an eco-socialist's response to Richard Smith

in my own blogsite

and also published it in an online journal (for link, see the previous post below), a lively and critical debate/discussion ensued in a different online discussion forum (see the following link)

    I contributed two more texts to the discussion/debate – both meant as response to some of my critics as well as clarification of my positions. I am now also posting them on my own blogsite, for which I have revised them slightly.

What Can Be Done Today?–Response to Richard's response

Richard has clarified his position. In the concluding paragraph, there is this clear statement: Overpopulation is a real problem, which he does not mean to ignore. But it is for him very much "a secondary driver" of planetary ecological collapse. That is why he does not concern himself much with the population problem. His priority is to "overthrow capitalism", the primary driver ….. . This is his analysis and his decision. We have to take cognizance of this. But is it a good decision? Should other eco-socialists follow it? Allow me to say a few words on this question.
    To me, it seems Richard is saying that the two – overthrowing capitalism and stopping population growth – are somehow separate tasks. First we must overthrow capitalism, then ….. . But, firstly they are not separate tasks. (Below, I shall try to show how they are connected.) And secondly,
it is not easy to overthrow capitalism and then start de-industrializing the country? Richard himself has shown with the example of the jobs question how difficult it is. Since the mid-19th century, beginning with Marx and Engels, generations of all kinds of socialists/communists have been trying to overthrow or overcome capitalism. But it was "socialism" that was overthrown in the USSR and Eastern Europe in just a span of two years (1989–1991) – both concretely and ideologically, by the very people who had been its champions. In China the process had began a decade earlier.
    This is not the place to explain how overthrowing socialism became possible. I have done that elsewhere, in detail. Here I want to give two part-answers to the other question, namely why it has been (and still is) so difficult to overthrow capitalism. Here we shall see the connection between the two drivers of planetary ecological collapse and that between our two tasks.
    India is a good place to see these two connections. In the early 1990s, (late 1980s???) the country was in the midst of a serious financial and economic crisis. It had to take a big credit from the IMF. India got it, but under the usual IMF conditions, namely opening up of the until then semi-socialist economy for neoliberal-globalist policies. To make the story short, this policy change led to a long economic boom. India is today a big economic power house. At the same time, the population continued to grow as ever. These two trends, economic and demographic, were complementary to each other, the demographic sector (children producing industry) supplying all the cheap laborers, and a huge reserve army of the same, needed in the economic sector. Today, the population of the country (nearly 1.3 billion) is growing at the rate of some 16 million (1.25 percent) per annum. The economic elite are rejoicing at the two growth rates. The population growth is being called "our demographic dividend", growing at a
compound interest rate. Today, almost every Indian is using a handi or even a smartphone, and, at the same time, the air in the cities is becoming unbreathable and the waters of lakes and rivers undrinkable. Everybody is worshipping the God Capitalism, and the influence of the communist and socialist parties is rapidly vanishing.
    The working class is no longer a threat to capital, because more people lead to more struggle for survival, more competition for jobs, less solidarity among workers, more fights of national and ethnic groups of workers against each other.
The working class and the trade unions are the strongest opponents of the Greens and Eco-activists. Even in rich Western capitalist countries with zero natural population growth, it is easy to get strike-breakers, because they can be imported from Eastern Europe or Mexico and Central America. The Great Crisis of capitalism of the year 2008 came and passed over again to business as usual. All the celebrated movements in the developed West brought nothing but yet another social-democratic party. In Spain we got the PODEMOS, in Greece SYRIZA; and in the USA, Occupy Wall Street fizzled out soon enough.
    I am at a loss to know how my US-American eco-socialist comrades are going to overthrow capitalism soon. I myself do not have any strategy for that yet. I do not see anywhere any revolutionary class, agents or party who are preparing to do this. This state of the world today reminds me of a quote from Schumpeter, from a book entitled
Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. He wrote there: "The capitalist or any other order of things may evidently break down – or economic and social evolution may outgrow it – and yet the socialist phoenix may fail to rise from the ashes." (1943: 56f.)
I think, today, it is infinitely easier to convince couples in the problem countries that limiting the number of progenies to two is a good thing – for themselves, for their children, the future generations, for their environment, for their country, and for the world in general. Let us start with what is easier to do at present. For me, at present, counteracting the rapidly approaching global ecological collapse has top priority. The fight against capitalism we can also take up as soon as the situation is ripe for that.


On the Value of the Equation I = P x T x A

Ted F. writes inter alia:

" … what is the point of the formula except to advance the claim that ecological damage of every society is directly proportional to population--a claim that fits in equally well with the right-wing passion to "exterminate the brutes" as our ecological vision."

    The point of the formula is to make clear that three factors (not just one, namely population, as Ted F. alleges) are involved in ecological destruction (and resource use, I should add). As in the case of most equations (formulae), it says that if T and A would remain unchanged, ecological destruction and resource use would rise if population rises and fall if population falls. This is easy to understand. Isn't it? This kind of general equations are used in every walk of life to make things clear. Nobody quantifies a factor at this generalized level. If one would quantify all the factors (e.g. 2 x 2 x 2 = 8), then indeed it would be a tautology, totally useless in any general discussion. But since all the factors here as well as the result are variable and unknown in our discussion, it is better to use this general equation.
    Why I have brought it into our discussion? Because in my long life as a political activist, I have made the experience that leftists, especially radical leftists, Marxists, feminists, liberals and 3rd world solidarity people, scrupulously avoid
the P-word. Why? Because they are afraid of being abused by people from the 3rd world, for whom the word "overpopulation" is like a red rag to a bull. I have often made the experience (in Germany, Europe, and also in India) of being abused as a fascist, once even as a racist, although I come from India and have a dark-brown complexion. But that is no reason, at least for me, for not telling the whole truth.
    Look at the part-sentence of Ted F. quoted above: "… a claim that fits in equally well with the right-wing passion to "exterminate the brutes" …. ." Is this style helpful for our cause? Is it helpful for our cause to suppress part of the truth? I don't think so. Thank god, Richard is above this kind of political correctness.

Fallacy of One World

Many participants in such discussions say: more than enough food is being produced in the world to satisfy the hunger of all the 7.5 billion humans in the world. Correct! But (1) is that any reason to let the world population go on rising? To about 10 billion by 2050? After all, hunger is not the only problem in this world, also our ecological footprint is a big problem. Isn't it? (2) Moreover, is it not totally useless, because at present unrealistic, to think that the farmers (or farming companies) of the few countries where surplus food grains are being produced should gift away their surplus to the poor people of the least developed countries? And (3) isn't "
food sovereignty" a very good idea for all peoples of the world? The planet Earth is one, but the world (of humans) is not one. One world, our ideal, has not yet been realized.

On the Agency Question

I think, most leftists in Canada and USA (the continent of origin of SCNCC), but partly also in Europe, have no real knowledge of the
consciousness of the really living proletariat of today. That is why one can find such delusive sentences on the opening page of the Website:

"SCNCC believes the climate justice movement will unite with the labor movement … to create an alternative."


"I am inspired ... to join hands with the working class in China to save the planet."

    Inspiration is absolutely necessary for having any cause, but it is better to mix it with a good dose of knowledge of the reality, of the whole truth.
    My position on the agency question can be summarized as follows: There are "only two camps: those who care and those who don't care." (Erich Fromm, a great interpreter of the best in Marx, wrote that in 1979).