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Proletarian issue 32 (October 2009)
Can the Green movement become a socialist movement?
Green shoots of political understanding sprout in Blackheath.
It would be quite easy to paint a picture of the recent climate camp at Blackheath in south London as a revolutionary phenomenon set up to develop the environmental arguments against capitalism and for advancing socialist-orientated planning as the solution to the problems facing the natural world at the hands of man. After all, the site chosen has strong historical links with the age-old struggle against oppression, as a statement put out by the organisers relates:

[F]rom this heath in 1381, preacher John Ball gave what was probably the country’s first speech against class oppression. What better place to continue the struggle for social justice and the fight against climate change?

Some might say the site was chosen more because it is slap bang in the middle of a large middle-class area and the police are more likely to behave better there. This may be so and, if it is so, shows good tactical understanding as, within and around the camp, the police ‘activity’ was much more restrained than is usual, especially given the large banner at the entrance to the camp that stated “ Capitalism is crisis!

This is all quite positive when we look back to the cool reception the CPGB-ML leaflet “ You’ve got to be red to be green ” received when it was first given out at a Climate Control demo in 2006 (although before the demo ended we had quite a few young people coming and asking for the leaflet), when the mainly middle-class, middle-to-old-aged Green activists were horrified that we had the cheek to turn up at ‘their’ demo mixing up class politics with environmental issues!

Since that time, we have noticed a growing number of (mainly young) people on environmental protests putting the problems of class and national oppression together with the environmental arguments. They are seeking answers outside of the ‘old’ Green policies, which focus on attempting to persuade the capitalists to understand and tackle ethical and environmental issues, and on setting ‘good examples’ by making ‘responsible consumer choices’ such as saving energy, recycling and buying only ‘morally-acceptable’ goods as individuals.

This standard ‘Green’ approach, however, ignores the fact that the capitalists already know and understand the ethical and environmental problems entailed by their system of production, but are powerless in the face of the logic of capitalism, which requires maximum profit in order to function – a requirement that effectively vetoes any ‘moral’ or ‘optional’ consideration, even if ignoring those considerations could ultimately lead to the destruction of all human life.

Our leaflet also states that forms of energy traditionally frowned upon by the Greens such as clean coal technology and nuclear energy can only be tested seriously within a socialist system, where maximum profit is not the deciding factor in every enterprise, and where power plants are not built by the lowest bidder, who will have to constantly ‘shave off’ the quality of materials used, as well as bypassing safety procedures, so as to increase profit margins.

Unfortunately, there is still a large majority of those who come under the label of ‘Green’ or ‘environmentalist’ whose answer to the current crisis of capitalism is try to take society back to a mythical time of ‘pure’, small-scale capitalist production.

This is madness, of course, since without mass production, we could not hope to cater for the needs of all the people on this planet. Not only that; it was small-scale capitalist production that led inevitably to large-scale industrialisation and on to imperialism: even if it were possible to turn the clock back (which it isn’t), we should succeed only in bringing humanity back to the same place!

But why should we try to turn the clock back when humanity has the ability to take a giant step forwards? It is perfectly clear that, with the technology and productive capacity currently in existence, we could provide a really decent level of material and cultural existence to all, only if production were based on need.

Progress for the human race can only come when we take the huge means of production that capitalism has created and abolish private ownership of them, allowing society as whole to set priorities in deciding how they are used and to distribute the products created by them.

This is a hard lesson for those in the Green movement to learn, but learn it they must if they are serious about wanting to save humanity from the impending climate-change crisis. If they will not stand against imperialism and for socialism they will, whether they mean to or not, end up exacerbating the environmental problems we are faced with rather than helping to build the solution.

Thus, it is encouraging to see signs that some within the Green movement are starting to study communist literature. The climate camp at Blackheath was not a hotbed of revolution, but it might just be that the green shoots of political understanding of the need for a socialist future were sprouting in some corners.
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