Wednesday 24 November 2021

Lesson from COP26: Protecting the climate requires anti-capitalist struggle

Written by W.T. Whitney Jr. and first published at People's World

Dealing with climate change, the United Nations held its “Conference of the Parties”—COP26—in Glasgow Nov. 1-13. Unfortunately, nothing happened likely to slow down progression toward a catastrophic outcome. The nations failed to reach even a non-binding agreement on reducing fossil fuel emissions that disturb the climate. In the wake of the conference, the theme “system change not climate change” gains new relevance.

With smooth words obscuring a grim reality, a New York Times reporter described “a major agreement…calling on governments to return next year with stronger plans to curb their planet-warming emissions.” But then comes the admission: COP26 left “unresolved the crucial question of how much and how quickly each nation should cut its carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the next decade.”

The conference’s hesitant approach originates from past difficulties in reaching collective and binding agreements. In recognition of such, the 2015 COP meeting ruled that henceforth nations need only submit goals for voluntarily reducing emissions.

The delegates at COP26 decided to renew a previous agreement, still unfulfilled, to provide poor nations with an inadequate $100 billion annually to assist them in “transition…recovery…and adaptation.” Rich nations were urged to double their funding by 2025. COP26 did not address phasing out coal production.

Prior to the gathering, publicity centered on “Keep 1.5 (degrees C) alive.” The slogan expressed determination not to allow dangerous levels of atmospheric warming to exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as promised by the 2015 COP meeting. A conservative estimate foresees a 50% probability that, at the current rates of emissions, greenhouse house gases will spike to that level in just 15 years.

Climate scientists associated with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) periodically issue Assessment Reports. Part I of the current version, reporting on the “physical science basis of climate change,” predicts that “Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century.” Consensus exists that temperature elevations of the order of  3°C will lead to exponentially accelerating planetary changes that will be irreversible.

The dim prospect of nations and the international community mobilizing effectively has unsettled all quarters of society. References to short-sightedness, disregard for the truth, opportunism, and immorality are standard. What’s in order for the protection of humanity is a gigantic rising-up of the concerned and afflicted, but it’s not on the horizon.

The movement already in place for applying ecological principles to the protection of nature has promise, though. For decades, there’s been theorizing, experimentation, and agitation for environmental sustainability. But these efforts have taken place predominately in well-resourced northern regions of the world.

Meanwhile, masses of people, everywhere, but mainly in poor regions of the world, are fearful, hurting, and/or dying. Clearly, they would be protagonists in a prospective movement for the survival of humans and all living things. Just as certainly, the specter of the mass mobilization that is needed would elicit reaction from the entitled classes.

Young people worldwide have organized, demonstrated, and spoken out. They protested at COP26. Interviewed, they project anger and commitment, but also despair and discouragement. Young people in the Global South are experienced in mobilizing against their political and ruling classes. In the United States, their affinity for the Bernie Sanders campaigns and attitudes expressed in opinion surveys show a new orientation towards socialism.

No wonder: U.S. young people face debts, fears, a deteriorating climate, and politics that look to be non-functional.

The U.S. response to climate change differentiates according to social class. Journalist and geologist Julia Rosen suggests that “climate change could bring welcome warming and extended growing seasons to the upper Midwest, Canada, the Nordic countries, and Russia.” Rosen adds that “Even within wealthy countries, the poor and marginalized will suffer the most.”

With their money, properties, and connections, well-to-do people in rich countries could wall themselves off from turmoil and victims. New arrivals escaping from homelands undone by desertification, drought, floods, and food shortages might find themselves rejected, stigmatized, and even manipulated—as pawns for dividing native-born workers.

The main class divide occasioned by the climate crisis shows up in the difference between rich, industrialized nations and the poor, historically exploited regions of the world. The industrialized G20 nations have produced 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.

At COP26, strong voices highlighted the predicament of peoples up against rising sea waters, the near impossibility of producing food, and/or intermittently intolerable heat. COP26 was silent on hearing vigorous demands for reparations, expressed as “loss and damage.”

Bangladeshi climate scientist Saleemul Huq offered reflections: “The most vulnerable communities in the most vulnerable countries…get just 2% of that global funding to tackle climate change…. This social injustice is a problem that rich people have caused. Every religion teaches us to be fair and moral—and that it’s immoral to hurt the poor.”

The class divide underlying this anguish finds expression through a thought experiment looking at linkages. First, there is capitalism; then ever-expanding industrial production, as required by capitalism; then the burning of fossil fuels, as required for production; then more burning for more production, then more emissions, and then unstoppable trouble.

The IPCC scientists provide corroboration. Parts II and III of their current Assessment Report won’t be released until early 2022. One is about impacts, the other mitigation. Key parts of each have been leaked.

A section of a Monthly Review summary of Part II states that “We need transformational change operating on processes and behaviors at all levels: individual, communities, business, institutions, and governments. We must redefine our way of life and consumption.”

Part III calls for a “turn to demand-side strategies, exploring cutbacks in energy use and across all economic sectors, as well as aggressively pursuing conservation and low-energy paths.” Quoted, the IPCC scientists assert that, “The character of social and economic development produced by the nature of capitalist society [is]…ultimately unsustainable.”

The scientists would alter capitalism’s basic assumptions. Do they want to get rid of capitalism? Maybe not yet. They are following the lead marked out almost 30 years ago by the visionary Marxist scholar Kenneth Neill Cameron. In his book Marxism, a Living Science (International Publishers, 1993), Cameron foresees “a world racked by natural disasters of social origin,” involving the climate. He notes that “there is only one way known to slow down and then eliminate these disasters, namely by phasing out the gases that cause them.”

Options for action exist. Progressives, socialists, ecosocialists, Marxists—a whole range of democratic forces—envision tasks that, together, are essential for sustaining humanity, protecting the climate, dealing with the environmental crisis, and building a massive, people-centered political movement.

Multifaceted programs in this vein often referred to as a Green New Deal, are outlined in Mark Brodine’s book Green Strategy, in John Molyneux’s article in Climate & Capitalism, and in a report by Sean Sweeney in New Economic Forum.

A complicating factor is that capitalists aren’t the only parties potentially inconvenienced by climate-friendly proposals for cutting back on production capacities and consumer spending. Working people under capitalism, dependent on selling their labor, crave economic stability and predictability. For them, meddling with capitalism for the sake of the climate might be disconcerting and weaken their enthusiasm for all-out climate repair.

That endeavor, if or when it proceeds, would likely carry with it the appendage of a Red Scare. Old outbursts would reappear, like “Better dead than red!” For that one, perhaps it will be updated to: “Better they die than we are red.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Rojava - Call for International Action-Days 26th - 28th November, 2021


In Kurdistan 2021 has been a year marked by resistance and struggle so far. On all fronts, from Rojava to the cities and mountains of Southern and Northern Kurdistan the Turkish fascist state has continued its attacks against the people and the freedom movement on all levels.

In Rojava the Turkish state is cutting off the water from the region, forcing demographic change in the occupied territories of Efrîn, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî, continuously bombing Şehba, Minbic, Eyn Îsa and Til Temir and threatening new major invasions. In Şengal, Rojava and Southern Kurdistan the Turkish state is continuously targeting leaders of the resistance and civilians with killer-drones.

Since the beginning of the year the Turkish army has started a massive operation against the Medya Defense Zones, which have been guerrilla controlled regions for decades. With thousands of soldiers and mercenaries, massive use of artillery, ceaseless air-surveillance and air-raids they are trying to advance on the ground. Despite all difficulties, the daily usage of chemical weapons by the Turkish army and the KDP supporting the invasion from the other direction, for more than half a year the guerrilla has successfully resisted and held its positions.

A history of uncompromised anti-fascist resistance is being written, so many great women and men lost their lives and so many more are putting their lives on the line everyday, with one goal: Smash Turkish Fascism!

This Turkish Fascism can only operate due to the support it gets internationally. This support is sometimes open and active, sometimes hidden and passive. In any case, this support is the reason for the continuous existence of occupation, exploitation, killing and war in the region. Together we can make the AKP-MHP government fall – if we stand with the guerrilla and rise up for Rojava, if we put serious pressure on the international profiteers of the fascist regime in Turkey, then the last days of the regime will soon be counted.

Target the Occupation in Efrin

Since March 2018 Efrîn has been under Turkish occupation. Since then the Turkish state has been exploiting the wealth of Efrîn. One of the examples is olive oil from Efrîn that is being exported elsewhere in the world. Take a look at this list ( to see if and where in your country oil from Efrîn is being sold to finance Turkish occupation and Islamist gangs in the region. Now, get active and creative to stop those who take advantage from the occupation!

Target the International Weapon Industry

Many companies and governments declared in the past they would not continue selling arms to Turkey, but we have to realize that many weapons and different kinds of advanced war-technology are still being given to Turkey. Let us put an end to this and Block, Disturb and Occupy the Weapon Industries places and offices! To do so, have a look at our updated Target Map and take action:  and

Target the Political and Diplomatic Support for Turkish Fascism

The Erdoğan regime takes its legitimacy, which it never had or lost long ago among the people of Turkey and Kurdistan, from international diplomatic and political support. Wherever you live, there are some political factions, institutions and parties which either openly or covertly support Erdoğan and the Turkish fascist state. Denounce them, confront them and make them regret their collaboration with a fascist regime!

Denounce Turkish Army Use of Chemical Weapons

In the past there have been several occasions on which the Turkish state has been accused of using chemical weapons, but since the beginning of this year they have started to do so on a daily basis. The HPG guerrilla has called more than once for an international investigation on this topic and international condemnation.

It is obvious that the use of chemical gas against the guerrilla is for one reason and that is the inability of the Turkish army to advance on the ground by using common weaponry. To put an end to this, let us support the call of the movement for an international condemnation. At the same time support the guerrilla more directly and raise money for gas-masks:

Stand with the Guerrilla and the Resisting People

The guerrilla, the YPG and YPJ, the people in Rojava and Northern Kurdistan are resisting with everything they have. We have to see, that every defeat there will negatively influence all of our struggles, but on the other hand every victory there will strengthen our struggles against fascism and for freedom all around the world.

To stand with the guerrilla means to stand with PKK

The 27th November marks the 43rd anniversary of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) foundation. We congratulate all fighting comrades and the people of Kurdistan and call on everybody to show their solidarity with the PKK on this day. Their struggle is a legitimate one for self-determination and freedom that deserves support from oppressed people around the world.

Under these topics we call on everybody to take action in their countries on the 26th, 27th and 28th November this year. Be creative! Block, Disturb and Occupy! Demonstrate and Protest! Target the profiteers of the war! Show your solidarity with the anti-fascist resistance in Kurdistan!

Together we will #SmashTurkishFascism, we will #RiseUp4Rojava and we will #StandwithGerîla!

Coordination of #RiseUp4Rojava – Campaign

 Internationalist Commune of Rojava

Monday 15 November 2021

Green Party Adopts Contradictory Definitions of Antisemitism: Future Implications

Written by Les Levidow

How does (or doesn’t) antisemitism relate to anti-Israel criticism?  For this political question, a central focus has been the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.  Since being adopted by the UK government in 2016, it has become increasingly contentious. 

The IHRA Definition likewise has been the focus of debate in the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) for several years.  Finally its autumn 2021 conference passed a motion on antisemitism guidance. Its text incorporated contradictory definitions of antisemitism, as highlighted by plenary speeches against the motion. Likewise by reports on the plenary debate from within and outside the GPEW.

Why such contradictory elements?  Together these serve the fantasy parallel universe of the motion’s supporters. According to them, there is no conflict between the IHRA Definition and the Palestine solidarity movement. This narrative helped the motion to gain a 2/3 majority vote at the conference plenary.  Yet the motion got a hostile response from pro-Israel groups.  Let us examine why.

On the one hand, the motion promoted the IHRA Definition as the ‘gold standard’ for mainstream Jewish organizations. Indeed it is, because they identify with Israel and seek to limit or restrict anti-racist criticism.  According to the IHRA’s Israel examples, it is antisemitic to characterise the Israeli state as ‘a racist endeavour’.  Deploying this example, pro-Israel groups have stigmatised the phrase ‘apartheid Israel’ as antisemitic. 

The IHRA’s Israel examples underlie some false allegations against Green Party election candidates by pro-Israel groups, especially the so-called ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’.  More generally, the IHRA’s Israel examples have been designed and used for an anti-Palestinian agenda; this role has been well documented for several years (as in the global survey, The IHRA at Work).

On the other hand, the conference motion gives reassurance that its guidance does not conflict with the GPEW’s policies on Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) (in 2008 and 2014 conference motions supporting the 2005 Palestinian call).  The motion’s Appendix 2 includes caveats, e.g. that it would not necessarily be antisemitic to call Israel ‘an apartheid state’.  And it includes the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA), which distinguishes between antisemitic and anti-Zionist comments, thus explicitly contradicting the IHRA’s Israel examples.  

For those reasons, the motion displeased pro-Israel voices, such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews and some Jewish newspapers.  Such voices have had a central role in false allegations of antisemitism, thus helping to shield and disguise a wider UK-Israel partnership (see my article).  For such false allegations, the GPEW motion-guidance provides a weaker political weapon than the IHRA Definition per se.  Hence they predictably criticised the motion. 

Those criticisms disappointed the motion’s proponents. Soon after the autumn conference, the Jewish Greens issued a briefing document for any GPEW representatives who may be asked questions about ‘the pushback from the Jewish community’ (more accurately, its pro-Israel sections).  The briefing attributes the pushback to a miscommunication.  It also says that the conference motion was ‘inspired by a model used by the Community Security Trust (CST)’.  Yet the CST’s 2019 report makes allegations of antisemitism against some individuals using the phrase ‘apartheid Israel’.    

The Jewish Greens’ briefing document downplays the motion’s contradictory content and caveats about anti-Israel criticism.  It makes several requests, e.g. ‘Do not: Suggest that the reason we’ve taken this approach is because the IHRA is inadequate or use language which suggests we are caveating the IHRA.’   Indeed, please don't say the obvious. 

For a consistently pro-Palestine politics that also opposes antisemitism,  the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is the most helpful short guide.  It should be deployed against the IHRA’s Israel examples, as it was explicitly meant to do. Political education should highlight their contrary perspectives. This is crucial for distinguishing between anti-racist Palestine solidarity and antisemitism, as a basis to counter false allegations.

Les Levidow is a member of Green Left within the Green Party of England and Wales. He has been involved in several Palestine solidarity groups since the 1980s, most recently Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP).  He is a member of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), which opposed the IHRA Definition’s precursor when it first appeared publicly in 2006.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

The Inside Story of Building the Ecosocialist Alliance

This post is based on and an updated version of a talk I gave to the Green Left meeting at the recent Green Party of England and Wales autumn conference.

Anything in the field of human endeavour, begins with an idea in someone’s mind, and the Ecosocialist Alliance was no different.

I’m a blogger, I edit the London Green Left Blog. The COP26 conference should have been last year, but was delayed because of the Covid pandemic. I wrote a piece basically saying even though the climate crisis had reached a critical point, I didn’t expect anything significant would emerge from the conference, whenever it happened.

This was the seed planted in my mind, which germinated into an idea - to have an ecosocialist response to COP26.

This got me to thinking, here was an important conference, happening in the UK, with the eyes of the world on us, where we had twelve months to organise a protest, and put forward ecosocialist solutions to remedy climate breakdown.

It would also be an opportunity to put ecosocialism firmly on the map of British politics. I thought it was probably a too big an ask for Green Left to do this alone, but would be feasible if we could join with other ecosocialist groups and individuals. The Ecosocialist Alliance would be open to all those who take an ecosocialist view.  

This is true of course of ecosocialism itself. It will not be owned by any one political party or grouping, but a coming together of the like-minded political campaigning groups and individuals, which builds a mass following. Ecosocialism has the solutions to our ecological and social ills.  

My first point of contact was with ex Green Left comrade, Allan Todd, now a member of Left Unity. I ran it past him. He thought it was a great idea, and we agreed that I would try and convince Green Left and he would do the same with Left Unity.

Then we would try to get others involved.

We were successful with Green Left and Left Unity agreeing to participate. I don’t think we would have got this on without Allan.

A series of weekly zoom meetings were arranged, between Green Left and Left Unity representatives. I had envisioned the alliance to be a UK thing only, but I wrote a blog piece, inviting interest, to what I called as a prototype a ‘United Ecosocialist Front for COP26'.

Later we changed the name because I thought it was too clunky, and bit Pythonesque.

It quickly became apparent to me though that there was an international dimension to this, so I got to thinking about how international comrades could participate in this alliance?

It is an international event after all, but in the middle of a pandemic!

I came up with the idea of releasing a public statement. I also found out that the G7 conference was going to be in the UK also, in June. This could be a trial run for us, so we worked on a statement to be issued to coincide with the G7 conference.

This had the added advantage of the statement being something tangible to announce the alliance, because at that stage, it was still largely an idea only. A contact email address was created.

We asked others in the UK and internationally to support the statement, and they did, in healthy numbers, from the UK and Ireland and the US and Canada, where I had contacts through my blogging and through the Global Ecosocialist Network, which Green Left had now joined.

We asked that supporters put it on their websites on the same day. We also arranged a public zoom meeting, which had attendees from the UK and US. The alliance was born.   

At this stage, Anti-Capitalist Resistance joined the alliance, who had been working on actions themselves around COP26. They were invited to our planning meetings, and took on the role of organising a physical presence in Glasgow and London mainly, but other towns and cities in the UK, too.

2000 newspapers were printed for distribution during COP26, and some at Green Party conference (front page pictured above).

And with special thanks to Rob Marsden, they did a very good job of it. Rob came up with our slogan ‘Ecosocialism not Extinction.’

We agreed to split the costs evenly three ways.

More recently, Red Green Labour joined in.

A statement was released on 24 October across many websites, after we had accepted an amendment from the Global Ecosocialist Network, which has support from many groups and individuals in the UK and internationally. From east to west it was supported by groups and individuals from Australia, South Korea, West Papua, Philippines, Iran, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Peru, USA and Canada.   

The Ecosocialist Alliance had a presence in Glasgow and London on 6 November on the COP26 Coalition demonstration, where our banner was proudly displayed (pictured at the top of this post, at the London demonstration).

Despite what the naysayers said, about the unhappy history of socialist unity projects in the UK, of which I was fully aware, the Ecosocialist Alliance has been a success, but it should be stressed that it has had goodwill from all those involved.

There has been a complete absence of any kind of sectarianism, unlike previous socialist unity project’s that I have been involved in, and that has been the key.

Although the alliance was only meant to be for COP26, we are considering continuing it, in some form or another. I hope we will, even if it is only on an ad hoc, campaigning basis.

Friday 5 November 2021

Review - Path to Extinction or Path to a Livable Future?

Written by Don Fitz

As climate change leads humanity’s march to Armageddon, data surfacing during late 2021 suggests that the march could be much briefer than previously thought.  “Nature is starting to emit greenhouse gases in competition with cars, planes, trains, and factories,” asserts Robert Hunziker.  The Amazon has switched from soaking up CO2 to emitting it.  Likewise, the Arctic has flipped from being a carbon sink to becoming an emission source.  Permafrost is giving off the three main greenhouse gases (GHGs): CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide. So much Siberian permafrost is melting that buildings are collapsing as methane bombs explode, resulting in craters 100 feet deep. 

As global warming becomes obvious, “climate denial” fades into the sunset.  The twin twilight stars replacing it are the “Blah, blah, blah” of inaction and “energy denial.”  Greta Thunberg famously ridiculed the “Blah, blah, blah” of politicians who publicly moan grave concern and then vote to do nothing.  The scorn had barely leaped from her lips when news broke regarding the Uinta Basin Railway in Utah where “… the Biden administration is poised to approve a right-of-way through the Ashley National Forest that … would enable crude oil production in the basin to quadruple to 350,000 barrels a day.”  Not much chance of capping oil with this administration.

The term “energy denial” reflects an intense belief that “alternative energy” (AltE) such as solar, wind, and hydro-power cause nothing but trivial problems which should be ignored in order to allow unlimited expansion of production.  Michael Klare is one of innumerable progressive authors who use justified hysteria over climate change to demand unjustified spending of trillions of dollars on AltE.

Stan Cox whacks all three dragon heads in his new book The Path to a Livable Future: A New Politics to Fight Climate Change, Racism and the Next Pandemic.  He dismisses the anti-science and racism of climate denialists such as Trump, strips bare the insincerity of the early Biden administration, and uncovers the lurking dangers of energy denial. 

The book goes beyond these.  Cox demonstrates that climate change is not a “thing-unto-itself” which can be halted by a quick fix of a few trillion dollars; but, is a pernicious stain in an interwoven fabric of oppressive systems.  This lays the groundwork for outlining a multiplicity of problems which must be addressed to confront climate change.  These include reducing production via a participatory economy, establishing financial equality, and building mutual aid networks. 

Conventional Wisdom 

Core to Cox’s analysis is a concept that runs so contrary to conventional leftist wisdom that many will not speak it, read it, or publish it.  He is at the forefront of authors willing to melt the golden calf of AltE.  He slams congressional proposals for a “Green New Deal,” noting that they fail to include any plans for restricting fossil fuel (FF) production and merely pretend that increases in solar and wind will cause a reduction in its use.  Reduction is not written into the plans because FFs are essential for manufacturing AltE equipment.  The book portrays the most troubling aspect of AltE to be its promotion  as a panacea.  This contributes to the preservation of social structures that are most in need of replacement: 

“If we attempt to construct a wind- and solar-powered society that replicates today’s high-energy living arrangements and transportation systems, the result will be the creation of ‘green sacrifice zones’ in nations that have large deposits of cobalt, lithium, and other metals that go into the mechanisms essential to renewable electricity systems.” (p. 120)

 What Else Is There? 

His alternative to a massive increase in AltE is simple and obvious: produce a lot less unnecessary stuff.  Within this simple truism, issues of complexity rise to the fore.

Cox continues the tradition of those who realize that increasing complexity leads to an increase in breakdown.  More complex systems require more energy to construct, require more energy to function, and are more difficult to fix.  Gadgets with 2000 parts are easier to break and harder to repair than are those with 20 parts.  Authors such as Joseph Tainter and Richard Heinberg have applied this idea to human systems, explaining that as societies evolve toward more complexity, they require more social energy to maintain interpersonal connections and are more prone to collapse. 

Cox takes this concept to a higher level for the US in the 2020’s, especially regarding racial and social injustice, diseases like Covid, and climate change:  

“… how can a just transition to a low emissions economy be systematically planned if, due to intolerable heat and humidity in the Sun Belt and Mississippi Valley, wildfires on the West Coast and in the South, constant pummeling by hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, and sea-level rise on all coasts, we become a nation of climate refugees, with the affluent snapping up the safe ground? … We can have ecological sustainability or capital accumulation, but not both.” (pp. 127-128) 

Entanglements are nowhere more perplexing than in food and agriculture.  As Ronnie Cummins points out, “Agriculture is the largest employer in the world with 570 million farmers and farm laborers,” with annual spending on food estimated at $7.5 trillion, making it the largest global industry.   His research background means that his analysis of food, land and agriculture is where Cox’s light shines most brightly.  He points out that soil depletion interacts with all of these, which then feeds into climate change.  Techno-fixes for climate change tend to require more land or other inputs.  Simultaneous use of multiple techno-fixes requires enormous energy input which then compromises ecosystems.

An example of the complexity is biogas from agricultural, which has been proposed as a source for energy.  Cox acknowledges that such energy would not require additional land but points out that “the amount of gas that can be produced is limited by the quantities of food, crop, and animal wastes available.” (p. 114)  Solar energy is a vastly more popular form of energy, but Cox explains its link to agriculture: “Plans for ‘100% renewable’ energy would require solar installation on at least as many square miles of the Earth’s surface as are now occupied by all food production and human settlements combined…” (p. 68)

 Then, Who Decides? 

How then, could a sustainable society reduce energy sufficiently to avoid climate change while providing quality lives and without wrecking global ecology?  How will reducing production affect enormous disparities according to race, gender, impoverishment and location?  Who decides what to reduce and how?  The author answers by returning to ideas from his previous book, Any Way You Slice It and combining them with concepts of participatory economics.  Subtitled The Past, Present and Future of Rationing, that book refuted the assertion that rationing would limit the ability of poor people to attain basic necessities.  In his current book, Cox explains that rationing would be a central part of reducing resource inequities: 

“The phase-out [of FFs] must be accompanied by systems to ensure … much more equitable access to energy.  Today, more affluent, predominantly white households have much higher than average consumption of energy in all forms, while millions of of lower-income households cannot afford as much energy as they need.” (p. 85) 

Since the largest source of GHGs is unnecessary production by the corporate class plus their luxury waste via “conspicuous consumption,” the focus of rationing must be on producing vastly fewer wasteful products and more of those required for human existence.  Cox concludes that “We need a more serious debate over how to determine which products and services are essential.” (p. 102)  Affirming that “… the path to a livable future is clearly not going to be a capitalist one.” (p. 87) he suggests that economic decisions cannot be left to “Blah, blah, blah” politicians.  Instead, they must be discussed far more broadly: “Those who are affected by the rules must be the ones who make the rules and also monitor” the use of resources. (p. 88)  Cox advocates citizen’s assemblies as the beginning point of deliberation that would feed into a multi-layered administration that would finalize and carry out polities.

As an example of how such a participatory economic system could work, Cox details how Cuba responded to the Covid crisis by collecting information from patients and doctors at neighborhood medical offices and then sending that information to clinics, which summarized it and passed it to national health decision-makers.  Far from producing health care less efficient than a market economy, Cuba’s system of health care rationing via participatory input allowed it to have a more successful response to Covid than did the US.

While rationing systems and participatory economics are essential components of a new society, they are the mechanistic parts.  Humanity will not be reborn without passionately adopting a deeper understanding of social relationships.  For this, Cox looks to mutual aid, which fuses a world view with ongoing actions of helping others in need. 

It is fitting that one of the first examples Cox gives of mutual aid is the United Farm Workers of the 1960s which provided farmworkers with basic provisions alongside mobilizing for labor rights.  After all, labor unions throughout history have supported those on strike.  The workplaces of the world are where humanity collectively produces those things required for our survival.

The book also describes how the Black Panther Party offered free clinics, sickle-cell anemia screening and the Breakfast for Children program.  Huey Newton called them “survival programs, meaning survival pending revolution.” (p. 145)  Such visions of people helping each other from an inner desire to do so is reminiscent of Che Guevara’s conception of the “new man,” a dream that became the germ of the Cuban health system. 

Going Forward 

Even the best analyses suffer an occasional fault and this book is no exception.  Though others may skip over it, I spent so many years opposing incinerators that reading this line evoked a “Huh?” from me: “Medical wastes can harbor pathogens and therefore usually must be incinerated.” (p. 34)  Actually, even the worst human pathogens do not require anywhere near the 2000 degree heat that incinerators reach for their destruction.  Autoclaves work fine for medwaste and do not create the variety of toxins that incinerators do.  Fortunately, calling for burning medwaste was a stand-alone lapse that actually runs counter to the author’s overall perspective of advocating the most environmental solution available.

The other problem, however, recurs.  Though frequently chastising the Democratic Party (DP) for inaction, the author turns to them for solutions: “We must show them [DP] that they are mandated to represent the will of the people, not the Silicon Valley tycoons, the natural gas extractors…” (p. 140)  In reality, neither of the two big money parties is likely to take “meaningful action” regarding climate catastrophe.  If the Trump cabal garners support from disparaging ethnic minorities and immigrants, the DP rallies its base with calls for “more stuff,” yielding it even less likely to advocate producing less of the unnecessary.  Looking to the DP to restrict overproduction seems a bit like asking the KKK to resolve racism.

It has long been said in many ways that problems cannot be solved by relying on individuals and institutions who created them.  The novel crisis of climate change nested within intertwined social problems calls for new ways of thinking – ways which are manifested in new mutual aid groups, new trade unions, and new political institutions.

Overall, The Path to a Livable Future may be the most serious and thought-provoking new book on climate change available.  It challenges shortcomings of dominant paradigms and offers alternatives that do not shy away from dilemmas.

The proposed solution that is most likely to be scorned is the assertion that it is possible to reduce production without harming the world’s poor.  It is worth noting that Cuba has attained a longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate than the US while spending less than 10% per person per year.  Indisputably, a drastic reduction in dollars spent on health care can accompany a higher quality of life.

When Cox goes through methods of cooling during hot summers and the energy needed for agricultural production, he carefully explains not only the complexity of each but how they fit into the nexus of systems affected by and affecting climate change.  The threat to humanity’s existence from climate change is far too profound and connected to far too many other intricate difficulties than to simplify it with slogans for quick fixes.  It is well past the time to face hard decisions of how to reduce obscene levels of corporate production instead of fiddling with perpetual energy fantasies while the planet burns. 

Don Fitz ( is on the Editorial Board of Green Social Thought where a version of this article was first published.  He was the 2016 candidate of the Missouri Green Party for Governor.  His book on Cuban Health Care: The Ongoing Revolution has been available since June 2020. 

Tuesday 2 November 2021

Introducing...The Socialist Green New Deal

Written by Mark Douglas

The Green New Deal remains the most potent political concept in recent years: it has undergone several phases and adoption by many political parties and movements. It has strong support across progressive trends in western Europe but has not been properly implemented anywhere.

Social Democratic parties think it is some solution to their lack of real policy to deal with poverty and the climate challenge. Left parties know that it presents a challenge to capitalism, if properly implemented, because greedy corporations cannot adapt and de-carbonise to reduce climate destabilisation.

In Green Left we say that a Socialist version of the Green New Deal needs to be fought for as part of the transition to a new political economy.

 Labour conflict on Green New Deal

Labour had a scrappy Conference in September 2021. It continues to suffer from a controlling bureaucracy under Starmer’s dull 'leadership'. Weak, reformist social democracy continues to clash with Labour's radical socialist base which also reflects the split of generations. 

The millennial generation faces a rough future and demands socialist measures to deal with it. Labour continues to be the most conservative social democratic party in western Europe; still can't adopt proportional representation. It seems like the Corbyn revolution of 2015-2019 has not changed Labour’s grey spots.

 Labour and Green

Yet we have to engage with the Labour movement in Britain. It does have radical impulses mixed in with its traditional top-down culture. It has the support of over 10 million voters compared with Green Party's 1 million. 

Fortunately, public opinion is changing to face the climate crisis. Green support is growing, and we can expect it to double and double again during this decade, 4 million by 2030?  We are following the German Greens who have been ahead in Europe for decades. Greens are in governing coalitions across Europe e.g. Scotland, and Austria.

We have to ally with Labour and socialist movements to create a 'united front' against capitalism. The Green Party has, what we could call, a 'post capitalist' programme which has socialist edges. Some say that the Greens are well to the left of Labour. Greens need to drag Labour to the left and adopt our radical version of the Green New Deal as spelt out in the Green Party manifesto of 2019.

Green Left, in turn, works to pull the Green Party of England and Wales towards a clear socialist policy which is where our Socialist Green New Deal comes in. We have been working on it for over a year and hope we can publish it, after agreement, by the end of 2021.  

The central policy of our deal is a Real Just Transition for the millions of workers in Britain who face job displacement during the de-carbonisation transition which is under way and will continue for around 2 decades till the 2040s. All workers in high carbon industries like coal, oil, gas, power, cement, limestone, steel, iron, cattle and sheep farming etc, face retraining, re-skilling and transfer to the new renewable and green industries.

 New Climate and Green Jobs

Trade Unions will be central to planning this mass transfer of jobs in the next 20 years. Transition Teams will be needed in each sector and community to plan and invest in the new industries. At least two million workers may be affected.  There are 1 million Climate jobs needed to de-carbonise the economy in:

 *renewable energy,

*expanded national and regional electric grid,

 *20 million homes energy retrofitting,

 *integrated electric public transport,

* Re-open rail and tram links to many town and villages

 *Affordable Eco-homes programme, etc.

There are  another million Green jobs such as in the  * Green and Blue infrastructure (Tree lanes, local water services) *new agro-forestry, *Rewilding and Ecological renewal,

There will be 2 million jobs in the *expanded National Care Service, which we agree with Labour on. The Care Service will be managed in close association with the NHS and funded by progressive income and wealth tax (eg. 1% annually over £5 million).  We want to see a range of Universal Public Services based on decentralised, community run energy, housing, health, transport, land, education, communication, etc.

Land reform is centuries overdue in Britain due to the entrenched landed aristocracy, which has been abolished in most European states, but not here. It is one of reasons we have the worst food resilience anywhere. Introducing Land Value Taxation will be necessary but not enough. 

We want communities to 'reclaim' unused or vacant arable land from large absentee landlords, starting with the Duchy of Cornwall and covering all parts of England and Wales. This will free up land for local organic agriculture and arable market gardening, replacing the millions of food imports with their wasteful 'carbon miles'.

The Green Socialist New Deal is a radical platform of transitional policies which will transform our country into the post capitalist age. A mass public information campaign will be needed to convince working people of its implementation. It will need a strong alliance of Labour, Socialist, trade union and green movements united to implement it, with the peoples support.

Mark Douglas is a member of Hackney Green Party, and a Green Left supporter. email: