I scored at the local used bookstore this weekend finding a $3 paperback of John Bellamy Foster’s Ecology Against Capitalism. Mine was lent out a couple of years ago and I can’t remember to who so if you have it and your reading this it’s yours to give to someone else. Spread the wealth. This interview with Monthly Review editor and author of Marx’s Ecology John Bellamy Foster is from the British paper Weekly Worker. Usually that paper is little more than a left wing tattle rag; for a while it was all Tommy Sheridan all the time at the WW, but on occasion they have something of interest. Foster is not a member of the eccentric, even by British standards, group that puts out Weekly Worker; the Communist Party of Great Britain.
The interview is an excellent introduction into Foster’s insights and a great refutation of the burgeoning, and entirely reactionary, ideology of the “Green Market” that is now on offer from bourgeois politicians and liberal, even radical, intellectuals. It is heartening to see Marxists rediscover the rich ecological critique inherent in Marx’s critique of capitalism. It certainly deserves to be a cornerstone on which future struggles will be based.
Some Marxists met in Paris last October to form an international ecosocialist network. Foster is not a part of that network, though his work has done much to inspire it as it has inspired a whole host of new scholarship and activism. Marx’s Ecology is a revelation of scholarship on Marx as well as Engels and their arrival at an ecological context for for the social crisis. The relationship between alienated nature and alienated labor is one of the most profound understandings of our condition in modern capitalism.
Like all species we live in a relationship with our environment, we co-evolve as societies as well. The whole history of agriculture and production is, unconscious, testimony to this fact. A direct relationship with nature is what we evolved in, it is what made us human. It’s damned capitalism, taught us to be the natural state of things, that is the aberration. It sounds so obvious and simplistic and yet the web of obfuscations society has built up over the generations has hidden even the most common truths from us.
A comment on MR. I wish Foster as well as Monthly Review would be more honest and openly contribute Trotsky and the Trotskyists in their understanding of the history of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution. In this article and more so in others Foster deals at some length with the Stalinist degeneration and its contribution to the sad state of Marxism over the years. It is intellectually dishonest to critique Stalinism, it’s roots and its effects and not write about the critique or the role played by Trotsky. One doesn’t have to be a Trotskyist to tell the truth about history.
Trotsky’s critique, which Foster and MR borrow liberally from, as well as his role as revolutionary informs the whole of Marxism in the 20th Century. A student’s paper in college couldn’t get away with ignoring Trotsky when talking about the revolution or Stalinism. The problem is not unique to Foster of course, but Foster’s well earned respect as a scholar throws these omissions into high relief.
Foster is rightly celebrated for his contributions to our understanding of the roots of the global ecological catastrophe as well as the way out of that crisis. This interview is an excellent introduction into his thinking, as well as the thinking of many Marxists and ecosocialists. The ecosocialist movement is all the more welcome given the advent of the Green Technologies and Green Markets frauds. Gore et al say the world is ending and then encourage you to buy different light bulbs (made by the ecowarriors at General Electric). Our solution is to tackle the root of the problem, the system of commodity production, and is therefore a much more cogent and realistic alternative than the feel-good suicide of moderated consumption offered by liberal environmentalists.
Aside: For some reason Obama supporters have spammed this site. If it were just one I wouldn’t have noticed. I wonder if other left blogs are being spammed? Thanks to all that have surfed by in the first two weeks of the blog. I’ve gotten great feedback and hope that readers are patient as the blog finds its legs. I hope to have a couple of new regular or semi-regular features soon. My favorite search so far to land on the blog; “thatcher hate marx”. I am not sure what they were after; if their hate was directed at Thatcher or Marx. Our hatred here at The Rustbelt Radical for Thatcher has only deepened with the years. I am sure that she’ll be reviled by people for generations. It seems though that history and biology will combine to cheat us all by giving the old woman a natural death. There is just no justice under capitalism.
Interview with John Bellamy Foster
The question of how Marxists relate to environmental issues – as Marxists rather than as born-again greens – is clearly a controversial one.
The answer to your question is complicated. There definitely is a danger in the sense that at least some of the views of the Greens – as a party-movement – are hardly progressive. There are some definite reactionary views mixed in there. So Marxists have to address them critically, like anything else.