The Red and The Green, Part One

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(William Bowles has been host of the excellent Investigating New Imperialism (INI) site since 2003. He is now leaving that site as an archive, and has launched Creative-I, which, he hopes will be easier to manage because it uses “all the new publishing tools available.” It is published using WordPress 2.3, a platform that Climate and Capitalism may move to one day.)

William Bowles’ latest essay on Creative-I is The Red and the Green, Part One – Economic Democracy. It begins …

If you’ve been reading the excellent cross-section of articles on Climate and Capitalism (‘Ecosocialism or Barbarism: There is no third way’) you will hopefully have come across the exchanges on the ‘Green versus Red’ issue. If you haven’t then it’s time you did.In a nutshell, the argument goes like this: ‘Real socialists’ are intrinisically green, thus the Green bit is surplus to requirement. All socialists are for a ‘sustainable’ economy, so are the Greens except they don’t adopt the view that you’ve gotta get rid of capitalism if you want to really deal with the issue. So basically it comes down to a difference over economics (never mind the politics of it).

Unfortunately, the most prominent colour of the ‘socialist’ countries was more a dirty, sooty brown than green, one of the things capitalist and socialist societies had in common (until of course all the polluting factories were exported to the developing world and the former socialist states deindustrialised).

Of course the propaganda extolled ‘green’ thinking, especially in the former Soviet Union, with its roots so close to the land. But as we know words didn’t translate too well into actions, the exigencies of the ‘Plan’ overrode all else.

But are we Reds really Green inside (mix the two colours in equal proportions and you’ll get a dirty, sooty brown, referring back to my art school daze)? Perhaps the Greens should be Red inside? Hey, whatever, far more important is the nature of that dividing line, economics and the politics that makes it work.

And it concludes:

Under capitalism, we have only a formal, political democracy (at best), but we have no control over the economic processes unless as workers we go on strike, an action of last resort and these days, only a minority of working people belong to unions. And in any case, strikes are basically the struggle between capital and labour over how the wealth we produce is shared. In actuality, we are all at the mercy of economic forces that not even the ruling political class have much control over let alone their capitalist masters, and the majority of us, no control whatsoever.

If we are to deal with the threat to the planet’s biosphere, it should be obvious to all that there has to be both political and economic democracy if we are to stand even a chance of stabilising what we’ve totally buggered up. And judging by the concern people are expressing about what’s happening to our Home (let alone how it’s actually impacting on those with no control over anything and what they feel), what’s the betting that if we had the opportunity to directly participate in the economic process as more than damn drones of capital, we would arrive at very different conclusions than our so-called political leaders have as to what steps to take. Nobody’s pretending that at this late date, it’s not an immense task, and one with no guarantee of success, but at least folks if we are truly in charge of our own destinies, if we screw up, we have nobody to blame but our good, collective selves.

And there are many more worthwhile ideas in between. I encourage you to read it now. I’m looking forward to Part Two.


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