While Green Party co-leader Russel Norman talks of something called 'market environmentalism', the real green alternative is ecosocialism.
Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis
Chris Williams (Haymarket, 2009)
The most disappointing and infuriating thing about the Green Party is its fundamental and irrational ideological assumption that a 'environmentally friendly capitalism' is possible. This view has been foisted on the party largely by ex-socialist and co-leader Russel Norman although the die was probably cast when the late Rod Donald invited various business leaders to the Beehive to assure them that the Green's were not a threat to the interests of capital.
But it has been Norman who has pushed the Green Party further to the right. This is the man who cries foul at the damage that 'the market' is doing to the environment but then can be heard praising the 'power of the market'. This is the problem with the politics of the Green's - they think capitalism can be a force for good despite all the evidence that says that this is nonsense.
Absurdly, the Green Party is labelled 'progressive' by the corporate media when in fact its just as satisfied with the neoliberal status quo as National and Labour.
All that the Green's are seeking is some tinkering with the policy settings. It's an indication of just how skewed mainstream politics are in this country that the Green's (and Labour for that matter) are allowed to pass themselves off as 'centre left'. That's how timid and insipid mainstream politics have become in this country.
Ecology and Socialism is a book that Russel Norman probably won't read but should. He would probably run a mile when from the subtitle -'Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis'.
Green activist and academic Chris Williams intelligently exposes the fallacies and, frankly, the plain gobblygook of 'market environmentalism'. He brings to his subject the tools of Marxism to show that at the root of the ecological crisis is a destructive and anarchic economic system.
Writes Williams: ‘Capitalist society threatens the breakdown of the basic biogeochemical cycles of the biosphere as we have come to know them’.
He acknowledges and elaborates on the ecological dimension of the socialist tradition. After all it was Marx who wrote in The German Ideology:
The ‘essence’ of the fish is its ‘being,’ water — to go no further than this one proposition. The ‘essence’ of the freshwater fish is the water of a river.
But the latter ceases to be the ‘essence’ of the fish and is no longer a suitable medium of existence as soon as the river is made to serve industry, as soon as it is polluted by dyes and other waste products and navigated by steamboats, or as soon as its water is diverted into canals where simple drainage can deprive the fish of its medium of existence.
Its not enough to try to convince business leaders of the error of their ways because this just leaves the system intact. What is required is a profound and fundamental transformation of the political economy. Otherwise 'environmentalism' is likely to degenerate into individual lifestyle choice.
Williams outlines a plan for a new world based around 'socialist sustainability' and there is much food for thought here.
But he also writes that such a world will not come through the discredited vehicle of mainstream politics. The social democratic parties, of whatever flavour, have become nothing but hollowed out servants of capital. Williams, who lives in the United States, is scathing of the Democrat Party.
In the end what is required are new political movements that recognise that you can't save the planet and save capitalism. It's just a pity that, locally at least, the Green Party is allowed to behave as if there was no alternative to 'market environmentalism'.