Monday, March 17, 2014

Cry Green Panic!

Whip-sawing environmental panic has apparently reached a new crescendo:

Before throwing all sense of historical patience and proportion out the window, I recommend:

Stewardship of nature falls to working class

The following is an excerpt from a statement adopted by the 2007 convention of the Socialist Workers Party. It is published in issue 14 of New International, a magazine of Marxist politics and theory, under the title “The Stewardship of Nature Also Falls to the Working Class: In Defense of Land and Labor.”

Despite efforts to persuade us otherwise by the employing class and the government and political parties of the bourgeoisie (to whom the union officialdom tethers itself), job safety, consumer protection, and environmental protection are inextricably tied together. The fight in the mines, factories, fields, and other workplaces to protect life and limb of the working classes and broader public is the germ of struggles for workers control of industry and for independent working-class political action. It is the germ of advances in labor solidarity leading the way toward a workers and farmers government and a giant leap in human solidarity.

The bosses try to convince us that we should not be in favor of rigorous regulation and enforcement of consumer and environmental protections because they decrease the “competitiveness” of “our” industries and “our” companies and cost workers jobs. The bourgeois figures and professionals who lead established consumer and environmental groups reinforce the prejudice that these are “middle-class” issues by placing much of the blame for abuses on the working class—both what we do on the job, and what we buy at the gas pump or cash register. But the bourgeois politics of NIMBY—“not in my backyard”—channels the wastes of industrial and agricultural production into the skies, streams, rivers, and soil where workers, farmers, Blacks, immigrants, and other exploited and oppressed layers of the productive population live.

Our fight for safety on the job is inseparable from social and political struggles by vanguard workers and the union movement to combat the exploiters’ contamination of the food we eat, shoddy and dangerous manufacture of goods we need, and fouling of the earth, waters, and skies. Through organizing to impose workers control over the industries where we create wealth expropriated from us by the ruling capitalist families, we can fight not only for our unions to exercise veto power over safety, health, and the pace of work on the job. We can simultaneously demand that employers open their books, so working people can lift the veil from the “business secrets” behind which capital covers up its profiteering and its outrages against labor and nature.

“If we translate everything commonly thought of as an environmental issue into how to advance the protection of the working class, and how the working class can extend that protection to all,” to recall the guideline cited earlier, “then we can hardly ever go wrong.”1…

Nearly a century and a half ago, Marx wrote in Capital—a book he prepared as a handbook for revolutionary-minded workers—that in the future, from “the standpoint of a higher socioeconomic formation, the private property of particular individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the private property of one man in other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations.”2

But labor cannot “bequeath” the earth “in an improved state to succeeding generations” so long as the capitalists hold state power, own and control the means of production, and allot society’s human and natural resources on the basis of a cutthroat rivalry to maximize profits. Under those conditions, labor’s conflict with nature will increasingly, and at some point catastrophically, prevail over its capacity to symbiotically transform nature. Just as the proletariat is the only social force that can stop imperialism’s inexorable march toward fascism and war, the stewardship of nature also falls to the working class.

It took a massive revolutionary war in the United States to overcome the bloody resistance of the slavocracy, and a post-Civil War revolutionary social movement of reconstruction to eradicate the system of “private property of one man in other men.” And it will take a socialist revolution to overturn the destructive social order that dominates this country and the earth today—a social order that will be defended by the ruling capitalist families ultimately utilizing the most brutal methods at their command. It is this revolutionary working-class program and strategy that the communist movement puts into practice.

1. Jack Barnes, Capitalism’s World Disorder, p. 301.
2. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 3 (1894), (London: Penguin, 1981), p. 911.

Green nostrums do have their own devastating unintended consequences:

UK ‘green’ policies lead to floods, ruin of farmers

MANCHESTER, England — Massive flooding in south England is above all a consequence of government policy under the direction of self-proclaimed environmental activists. Driven by anti-scientific ideology and contempt for working people, these policies have led to devastation of working farmers, farmland and infrastructure — as well as the very wildlife habitats they claim to champion.

The worst flooding since 2007 has left 5,800 homes flooded and 80,000 households without power. Many workers could not get to work and farmers watched field after field of crops go under. A rail line connecting Cornwall and much of Devon with the rest of the country is out of commission for weeks. Homes in Chertsey, residents report, have been covered in untreated sewage, while flood water in Basingstoke has mixed with sewage.

“We’ve been without mains water and surrounded in floodwater for five weeks now and Thames Water and the Environmental Agency have done nothing,” Deborah Carter, in nearby Wraysbury, told The Independent.

Flooding began in Somerset in December and spread to other areas of south England following record rainfall in January. Residents in the southwest complain they were flooded for six weeks before they received any government assistance. Government Minister Eric Pickles admitted the government should have dredged the Somerset Levels to speed water drainage. Yet repeated calls by farmers for dredging were disregarded for months.

Flood waters on the Somerset Levels have been rising for the last few years. Four main rivers running across the Levels — home to a fifth of Somerset’s farmland — became so clogged with silt that water from record high rainfall could not escape.

In 1996, Britain’s new Environment Agency took over management of rivers, diminishing the role of local bodies that had organized flood control for generations. Farmers and engineers told Christopher Booker, who wrote an article on the roots of the flood problem in the Feb. 15 issue of the Spectator, that this change coincided with a decline in regular dredging, neglect of pumping stations and a rash of new “environmental” regulations.

Gov’t cuts back dredging, drainage

Dredging was cut back further in 2002 after the Labour government appointed wildlife zealot Barbara Young, Baroness of Old Scone, as chief executive of the Environment Agency. In 2008 the agency halted drainage on the Somerset Levels under the rubric of protecting biodiversity. “For instant wildlife just add water,” Young, who previously headed up the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England, blithely advocated at the time.

Elsewhere, the Thames has not been properly dredged since 1996, following European Union environmental protection directives that made it more expensive for landowners to dredge rivers than to collect government subsidies to develop so-called conservation schemes.

Agronomists estimate that farmers on the Somerset Levels may not be able to grow crops for up to two years as a result of the floods. Half of the flood pumps could not be used because of damage to the banks of the Parrett River.

The current coalition government has also reduced spending on flood defenses. Prime Minister David Cameron tried to hide behind “abnormal weather” and “climate change” as reasons for the disaster. Yet around 5 million people in the U.K. are known to live in areas prone to flooding.

The impact of the flooding has also called forward a chorus of panic-mongering from liberal commentators. A lead article in the New Statesman warned that “the U.K. faces the prospect of food shortages, more floods, extreme heat waves and mass refugee flows.”

Rather than target government priorities and the social conditions working farmers in the areas affected face, Guardian writer and self-described environmentalist George Monbiot blames them, alleging the government pays farmers “for the privilege of having our wildlife exterminated, our hills grazed bare, our rivers polluted and our sitting rooms flooded.”

The reality working farmers face was described in a phone interview with Surrey dairy farmer Youleite Parkes. “The knock on effect of having to buy more cattle feed at higher prices because of the floods will be with us for some time,” she said, describing how government regulations prevent farmers from drawing water off rivers and also draining ditches on their land as frequently as necessary.

For many working farmers flood insurance for their land “is too expensive to even consider,” she said.

Insurance companies predict price rises in premiums. The bad weather has been a boon for these capitalists. An article in The Times was headlined, “Profits soaring, the insurance industry must love floods.”

Fearing potential electoral losses, Cameron has visited areas affected and pledged tax breaks and grants to businesses and households hit by the floods. In order to provide subsidies to insurance companies, the government announced it would impose a new tax on everyone holding home insurance across the United Kingdom.

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