18 Feb 2010

The Poverty of Environmentalism

I listened to Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, announce this morning on the Today programme her party's expectation of a breakthrough in the next general elections. In response to John Humphrys suggestion that her party might lose out as a result of the public's scepticism about climate change because of Climategate and recent revelations, Lucas claimed that the Green Party "has always been about both social and environmental justice" and is not a single-issue party. What? I thought the clue was in the name. Going for a bit of Red to spice up the Green brand, are we Caroline?

The Green Party's understanding of justice is Stalinist in flavour. If everyone is equally poor, then we are all equal. This pretty much sums up not only the Green Party's programme, but of all those anarcho - anti-globalisation - anti-Capitalist groups sprouting everywhere these days. What unites them is the use of pseudo-Marxist language to say decidedly non-Marxist things. Marx would be turning in his grave if he didn't have that huge chunk of stone lying on top of him.

In 'The Principles of Communism' Marx says: "That big industry, and the limitless expansion of production which it makes possible, bring within the range of feasibility a social order in which so much is produced that every member of society will be in a position to exercise and develop all his powers and faculties in complete freedom." Against the 'limitless expansion of production', the Green Party, and just about everyone else these days, propagates the dubious notion of 'limits to growth'.

Communism's premise was the transformation of the social order to unleash the full potential of industrialisation to fulfill human needs. And Marx makes it clear that there is no distinction between needs that arise from want and those that arise from desire. By contrast, environmentalists want to limit our consumption to the bare minimum of essentials. Marx understood that liberating human beings from toil enables them to pursue other interests and seek self-fulfillment in a broad sense. Environmentalists advocate that we all become self-sufficient entities, producing our own food, energy, etc, in the process spending long hours of everyday to produce the very basic requirements of life.

Lucas proudly declared that the Green Party 'has the most ambitious environmental policies'. For 'most ambitious' read 'placing the severest restrictions on production and human activity'. Marx explained how true equality can be brought about when society produces enough to satisfy the needs of all citizens. Lucas wants to achieve the same target by reducing production severely and then 'redistributing the wealth'. For starters, there wouldn't be much wealth to redistribute, Lucas and her comrades confuse accumulated capital with actual production.

Moreover, redistribution is offered as a radical solution to socio-economic problems, when in fact it is a conservative project that aims to preserve the current system while dealing with its less pleasant aspects. Environmentalists don't want to overthrow Capitalism, they want to fine-tune it. Don't be fooled by the pseudo-radical language, the convergence between Capitalism and Environmentalism is almost fully realized, that is why the so-called radical activists dressed as eggplants or some-such publicity-seeking gimmick sounded exactly the same like government officials in Copenhagen.

Going back to the Green Party's electoral ambitions, it is quite clear that the difference between them and the other parties is chiefly a quantitative one: they are willing to go further in imposing Green Taxes and putting up more barriers against industry and growth. In fact, their policies are the most anti-working class of all the other parties, they will certainly have the harshest impact on lower-earning groups should they come into power. At the moment, this remains a highly-theoretical proposition, but the Green's job is being done to a certain extent by the other parties both on the left and on the right. The argument for growth and development should be put forcefully by progressives to stem this tide of reactionary anti-growth thinking.

There is, however, one very interesting policy in the Green Party programme, it supports the legalisation of marijuana. This is not, as the Greens claim, because they value individual freedom and personal choice, they are more than happy to restrict your freedom to drive, fly and buy a flat screen TV. It is because the Green's realize that life under them would be so harsh that you will need to be stoned all the time to deal with it.

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Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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