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Why Marx would have been a denier of Global Warming
« Online: 26 de Dezembro de 2009, 13:17:08 »
http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/5592858/why-marx-would-have-been-a-denier.thtml

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Make no mistake, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would have given short shrift to global warming and environmentalism in some of their most colourful prose. As Sherlock Holmes explained to the Scotland Yard detective, there is the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. But the dog did nothing. ‘That,’ Holmes replied, ‘was the curious incident.’

Who heard the Marxist bark? In the history of global warming, that dog was classical Marxism, a Promethean doctrine that argued for the strengthening of man’s power over nature. It is hard to conceive of the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union being a party to global carbon emissions treaties on ideological grounds, let alone during a strategic race to bury the West.

Scratch a green, and not too deep you’ll find the argument that humans are the cause of the planet’s woes — an idea which can be traced back to the English economist Thomas Malthus and his 1798 essay on population which earned him enduring fame, and for Marxists, notoriety. In it, Malthus argued that whereas the means of subsistence grow arithmetically, the human population tended to expand geometrically; war, famine, pestilence and other disasters bringing the diverging line of population growth back to the subsistence line.

Marx and Engels would have none of it. In an 1865 letter, Marx called the essay a ‘libel against the human race’. Twenty years earlier, Engels described it as the most open declaration of war by the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. If modern environmentalists preaching restraint and vegetarianism can sound sanctimonious, Marx was there first.

Most of what he called the population theory teachers were Protestant parsons. Malthus himself was a rare celibate parson in what Marx called the English State Church, where most had taken the injunction to be fruitful and multiply to ‘a really unbecoming extent’.

Marxists believed in science and progress. Paradise on earth was in the future, not some sort of misty, bucolic past. (According to Engels, industrialisation had pulled the working class out of a vegetative state ‘not worthy of human beings’.) ‘What is impossible for science?’ Engels asked. The technological forces of modern bourgeois society would raise the productive power of each individual, he wrote. Under capitalism, the problem was not the physical limits of production, but that the poor could not afford what was produced.

During the Cold War, the communist bloc had no interest in the environmental questions that were moving up the agenda of the West. Of the 152 international experts selected ahead of the United Nations Stockholm conference in 1972, 19 were from the US, 13 from the UK and only six from the Soviet Union (Scandinavia had three more). There were none at all from China.

The collapse of communism 20 years ago revealed the full extent of the environmental degradation which had gone hand in hand with the system’s indifference to human misery. The rise of the environmental movement did not kill Marxism. Its demise was a pre-condition for environmentalism to attain the global dominance it has today.

Rupert Darwall’s book, Global Warming: A Short History, is being published by Quartet Books in Spring 2010.


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Re: Why Marx would have been a denier of Global Warming
« Resposta #1 Online: 26 de Dezembro de 2009, 19:35:34 »
True, Marx et al. didn't care about environment. For them, "we use it" and that's all, appropiation of natural resources. Marx refused talking about Malthus - for him, if Malthus' Law is true, it's unavoidable; and if it's false, we don't need to take it into account. I criticize Marx in this...

This' one place where Marxians¹ and Marxists differ: most Marxists see nature as something that must be preserved, Marxians ignore.

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Marxists believed in science and progress. Paradise on earth was in the future, not some sort of misty, bucolic past. (According to Engels, industrialisation had pulled the working class out of a vegetative state ‘not worthy of human beings’.)
"Working class" was misused - in Engel's texts, he used proletarian instead. He is talking about the Roman free men (the nearest equivalent to today's proletariat); they wasn't the productive class as today, but slavekind was.

And, wow. My English is rusting :/

I don't give a shit if "sustainable development" became cliché; for me, it's an important thing to follow.


1 - for those not aknowledged by the term, "Marxians" are those who follow what Marx writes as sola scriptura; they ignore Engel's, Lenin's, Luxembourg's works completely when thinking about society and economy. For me it's like deny Genetics because Darwin didn't take it in account.



My English is rusting :/
É uma aflição das mais estressantes ter um coração sentimental e uma mente cética. - Naguib Mahfouz

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Re: Why Marx would have been a denier of Global Warming
« Resposta #2 Online: 28 de Dezembro de 2009, 21:51:38 »
And yet, contrarians will keep with that "watermelon" joke, "they're green on the outside, but red on the inside", thinking it is really witty.

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Re: Why Marx would have been a denier of Global Warming
« Resposta #3 Online: 28 de Dezembro de 2009, 22:32:06 »
And yet, contrarians will keep with that "watermelon" joke, "they're green on the outside, but red on the inside", thinking it is really witty.
As far as I know, the "watermelon joke" isn't used with environmentalism, but with army, specially when talking about Lacerda.
green = army, red = commies, and, well, Brazilian army + commies... y'all know, right?
É uma aflição das mais estressantes ter um coração sentimental e uma mente cética. - Naguib Mahfouz

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Re: Why Marx would have been a denier of Global Warming
« Resposta #4 Online: 29 de Dezembro de 2009, 21:42:09 »
It must be a new interpretation/sense to something older then, because I've only seen it used in the context of environmentalism being just a disguise for communism.


...

I think, however, that they're (the commies) right, regarding the belief in science and progress. I think that the solutions for global warming and perhaps the ozone hole will come by lifting hoses with balloons on the upper atmosphere and releasing aerosols to cool the earth and maybe ozone to replenish the layer.

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Re: Why Marx would have been a denier of Global Warming
« Resposta #5 Online: 29 de Dezembro de 2009, 22:28:55 »
Environmentalism and communism aren't opposites, however, they ain't theoretically connected. So, it's more individual opinion, really.

I had already seen flame wars between commies about environment, and let me say... it's funny :biglol: specially when both sides says they're more Marx-like one than another :stunned:

I agree with science and progress use against global warming, however remediating is not going to work alone... that old "reduce CO2 emission, trade CFC for other gases etc." still has a long way forward.
É uma aflição das mais estressantes ter um coração sentimental e uma mente cética. - Naguib Mahfouz

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Re: Why Marx would have been a denier of Global Warming
« Resposta #6 Online: 26 de Fevereiro de 2010, 17:32:00 »
Rupert Darwall is a corporate flack and a flunky for the British Conservative Party. His article quoted above revives some of the tired old anti-Marxist tropes levelled by his co-thinkers on the right who have never even cracked open a book by Marx.

Here’s another point of view, from John Bellamy Foster, who has read everything Marx ever wrote:

Citação de: John Bellamy Foster
Far from being mere worshippers of productivism, Marx and Engels were two of its foremost critics. As the young Engels wrote in 1844, "To make the earth an object of huckstering - the earth which is our one and all, the first condition of our existence - was the last step toward making oneself an object of huckstering." Under capitalism all natural and human relationships, Marx argued, have been dissolved into money relationships. Rather than a society ruled by "callous 'cash-payment'" and by the necessity for continual increases in productivity, he looked forward to a social order that would promote the many-sided development of human capacities and the rational human relation to the nature of which we are a part. The further growth of human freedom, he wrote in the final part of the third volume of Capital consists in "socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their material interchange with nature and bringing it under common control, instead of allowing it to rule them as a blind force."

The human community, Marx believed, can no more free itself from the need to control its interaction with nature than it can free itself from the need to take into consideration the natural conditions of human existence. Yet rational control of the relation between nature and humanity is inherently opposed to the mechanistic domination of nature in the interest of the ever increasing expansion of production for its own sake. In a society of freely associated producers, Marx argued, the goal of social life would not be work and production, in the narrow forms in which they have been understood in possessive-individualist society, but the all-around development of human creative potential as an end in itself, for which "the shortening of the working-day is a basic prerequisite." This would set the stage for the achievement of a realm of freedom in which human beings would be united with each other and with nature.

The realization of these conditions, Marx recognized, necessitated a radical transformation in the human relation to nature. With the elimination of private ownership of land and the development of a society of freely associated producers, global sustainability in the relationship to nature would become feasible for the first time. Pointing to the imperative of protecting the globe for future generations Marx stated:

Citação de: Marx
From the standpoint of a higher economic form of society, private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one man by another. Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and like boni patres familias [good fathers of families], they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.

Although Marx did not concentrate on the ecological critique of capitalism in his writings - no doubt because he thought that capitalism would be replaced by a society of freely associated producers long before such problems could become truly critical - his allusions to sustainability indicate that he was acutely aware of the ecological depredations of the system. Central to his concerns in this respect was the effect of capitalist industrialization on the degradation of the soil. The best known passage in this regard, from Capital vol. I, is to be found in the section on "Large-Scale Industry and Agriculture," which constitutes the final, culminating part of Marx's key chapter on "Machinery and Large-Scale Industry" (on the effects of the Industrial Revolution). There Marx argues that,

Citação de: Marx
All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is progress towards ruining the long-lasting sources of that fertility. The more a country proceeds from large-scale industry as the background of its development, as in the case of the United States, the more rapid is this process of destruction. Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth - the soil and the worker.

….

Marx and Engels did not confine their discussions of ecological limits to the issue of the soil, but also explored numerous other issues of sustainability, in relation to forests, rivers, and streams, the disposal of waste, air quality, environmental toxins, etc. "The development of culture and industry in general," Marx wrote, "has ever evinced itself in such energetic destruction of forests that everything done by it conversely for their preservation and restoration appears infinitesimal." With regard to industrial waste, he argued for "economy through the prevention of waste, that is to say, the reduction of excretions of production to a minimum, and the immediate utilization of all raw and auxiliary materials required in production."

The chief source of ecological destruction under capitalism, Marx and Engels argued, was the extreme antagonism of town and country, a characteristic of capitalist organization as fundamental to the system as the division between capitalist and laborer. "When one observes," Engels wrote, “how here in London alone a greater quantity of manure than is produced by the whole Kingdom of Saxony is poured away every day into the sea with an expenditure of enormous sums, and what colossal structures are necessary to prevent this manure from poisoning the whole of London, then the utopia of abolishing, the antithesis between town and country is given a remarkably practical basis.”

Such ecological insights, so unusual among nineteenth-century thinkers, all derive from Marx and Engels' early recognition of the essential point that sustainability must lie at the core of the human relation to nature in any future society.

It is therefore wrong to argue, as Ted Benton has, that Marx and Engels "sustained and deepened those aspects of capitalist political economy which exemplified its hostility to the idea of natural limits to capital accumulation." To be sure, they had little to say about the absolute natural limits of the globe. In this sense, some, Benton included, have viewed Marx's analysis as ecologically inferior to that of Malthus, who emphasized the growth of population in relation to food supply (not primarily from an ecological or carrying capacity perspective but in order to justify subsistence wage levels and the dismantlement of the English Poor Laws). Yet Marx and Engels were unusual in the degree of emphasis they placed on the natural conditions of production, and in their recognition of the fact that a sustainable economy demanded a sustainable relation to nature on a global basis. In this sense, natural limits are very much a part of their argument.


Marx seems to have clearly understood the basic ecological principal that "nothing comes from nothing," popularized in recent years by Barry Commoner and others. As Marx himself wrote,

Citação de: Marx
What Lucretius says is self-evident: "nil posse creari de nihilo," out of nothing, nothing can be created. Creation of value is transformation of labor-power into labor. Labor-power itself is energy transferred to a human organism by means of nourishing matter.

We can more fully understand the historical significance of Marx and Engels' ecological thought by comparing their ideas with those of the great Vermont environmentalist George Perkins Marsh, widely recognized as the greatest ecologist of the nineteenth century and (in the words of Lewis Mumford) "the fountainhead of the conservation movement." In one of the best-known passages of his classic work, Man and Nature (I 864), Marsh wrote:

Citação de: George Perkins Marsh
There are parts of Asia Minor, of Northern Africa, of Greece, and even of Alpine Europe where the operation of causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation almost as complete as that of the moon; and though, within that brief space of time which we call "the historical period," they are known to have been covered with luxuriant woods, verdant pastures, and fertile meadows, they are now too far deteriorated to be reclaimable by man.... The earth is fast becoming an unfit home for its noblest inhabitant, and another era of equal human crime and improvidence ... would reduce it to such a condition of impoverished productiveness, of shattered surface, of climatic excess, as to threaten the depravation, barbarism, and perhaps even extinction of the species.

This statement by Marsh can be compared to a closely related interpretation of long-term ecological developments put forward by Engels in his essay, "The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man," written in 1876:

Citação de: Friedrich Engels
Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest of nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us.... The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that they were laying the basis for the present devastated condition of these countries, by removing along with the forests the collecting centers and reservoirs of moisture. When, on the southern slopes of the mountains, the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region.... Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature - but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage of all other beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws.

A close examination of these passages will reveal that there is a broad similarity in the way in which the issue of ecological destruction is approached by Engels and Marsh. Both refer in detail to great ecological disasters that have confronted civilizations. Both see this primarily as a question of sustainability. In Marsh's terms, such "improvidence" in the exploitation of nature must be ended, while Engels insists on the fact that we "belong to nature" and must "correctly apply its laws." Both adopt a broadly anthropocentric perspective, in the sense that they emphasize the consequences of such destruction for the fate of humanity.
….

Today radical ecologists see things differently only in the sense that it is now understood that global ecological destruction will play a central role in capitalism's end game. We are for the first time in human history confronting the problem of ecological survival on a planetary scale - a problem that nineteenth-century thinkers, Marx and Engels included (though Marsh might be considered an exception to this), could scarcely have imagined. Nevertheless, we cannot even begin to understand the complex of problems that presently face us unless we approach them as Marx and Engels did in relation to the critique of capital accumulation.
(footnotes omitted here)
« Última modificação: 26 de Fevereiro de 2010, 17:36:18 por Galileo »
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