Category Archives: Environment

Where Science and Socialism Intersect

A book review by Barry Weisleder

I strongly recommend the latest book by Ian Angus, “A Redder Shade of Green”.  This anthology, published by Monthly Review Press (New York, 2017, 198 pages), contains well-written articles, very accessible to non-experts, that first appeared between 2009 and 2017.  They summarize the latest scientific findings on the state of the environment and provide cogent arguments against climate change deniers and environmental reformists.  Between the covers is a compelling case made for involvement in existing social movements that are doing what can be done right now to reduce carbon emissions. Opposition to the construction of oil pipelines, to fracking for gas, and to military operations (all of which consume inordinate levels of carbon-based energy) are the leading examples.

This book is a fitting companion piece to Angus’ prodigious work “Facing the Anthropocene” (2016) which adduces a sweeping political economy of carbon capitalism, from its origins to today.

The author roots eco-socialism, the programme for system change to avoid catastrophic climate change, in the seminal work of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and their Red Chemist colleague Carl Schorlemmer.  Angus not only explains the “metabolic rift” between capitalist production and nature, but documents how the “Great Acceleration” of fossil fuel usage post-WW2 defines a new fraught epoch, the Anthropocene.  The insatiable drive of global capitalism to grow and profit, at any cost, threatens to disrupt the “Earth System” irreparably, portending the end of human civilization.

“A Redder Shade of Green” correctly targets the system of irrational growth and waste, and it identifies the tiny class that rules over it.  Redder rejects the claims of liberal Greens and pro-capitalist conservationists that all or most of humanity is fundamentally to blame for excessively eating, clothing, sheltering itself, and reproducing.

The sub-title of the book, “Intersections of Science and Socialism”, signifies its strength, and affirms its commitment to build mass movements in the streets to challenge the powers that be.  Effectiveness can be achieved by collaborating with everyone willing to fight for a better future, regardless of differences on social class and ultimate political goals.  At the same time, Angus insists, eco-socialists should relentlessly advance a scientific critique of the fundamental enemy.

Unfortunately, the intersection of Socialism, as a philosophy or programme, with the revolutionary vanguard of the working class, is entirely missing.  The paramount need to create a political party, one that is capable of leading the struggle against the toxic mode of production to a socialist and democratic conclusion, is conspicuous by its absence.

Angus seems to try to justify postponement, or abandonment of the project of building a revolutionary workers’ party with the comment “we have to accept that the socialist movement is not going to triumph in the immediate future.” (page 163)

Just as it is foolhardy to try to predict when the Earth System, an incredibly complex and unpredictable matrix, will go beyond ‘the tipping point’, it has been repeatedly proven wrong to exclude the outbreak of socialist revolution.  After all, as Redder demonstrates, the world is dominated by a global socio-economic system riddled with deep and explosive contradictions.  Indeed, no workers’ revolution that did take place actually happened as predicted.  And those upheavals that were first predicted did not occur when or where they were anticipated.

Furthermore, when revolutionary conditions arise, it is usually too late to start building a party; it is then too late to get it sufficiently rooted to be able to lead insurgent masses to a decisive victory.  Given the dire fate of the environment today, humanity can ill afford to squander any opportunity to make radical change.

Finally, doesn’t it beg the question:  Where are the eco-socialists going to find the most like-minded comrades?  Where will they find the very best builders of broad, mass movements now needed, if not in a revolutionary workers’ party or pre-party formation?  That recognition is actually the Reddest Shade of Green.

The Discreet Charm of Big Oil

by Gary Porter

“Oil lobby targeted 13 Ontario swing ridings in ‘unprecedented’ pipeline campaign” read the headline in the Toronto Star on July 5, 2018.  From their investigation into the political influence of the oil business, the Star reported that the Canadian Petroleum Producers Association (“CAPP”), and three organizations controlled by CAPP, executed an intense and expensive campaign clearly aimed at electing Doug Ford, the newly minted Tory leader as Premier of Canada’s largest and most influential province.

Although CAPP claims the campaign was not intended to influence the Ontario election, it ran from April 8 to May 29. The Ontario election was held on June 7. Voters were targeted in 13 Ontario swing ridings with rallies, high visibility billboards, and 400,000 pieces of pro-pipeline literature.  24,000 letters were sent to influential people across Canada urging support for the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion to move bitumen to Canada’s west coast for export. If built, the pipeline will triple tanker traffic through busy shipping lanes, and will be loaded with the dirtiest oil in the world.  If this stuff leaks, or pours into the ocean, it will not float. It will sink and leech toxins into the marine biosphere for decades.

Canada does not normally allow such wild west campaign spending. In Ontario, anyone spending over $500 in the 6 months leading up to a fixed date campaign must register and adhere to campaign finance restrictions. CAPP did not register.  Its claims that the campaign was national, not provincial, seem disingenuous at best. How much did it cost? Millions for sure. The actual amount remains hidden because CAPP did not register — presumably, to avoid public reporting.

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government, elected on July 7, immediately terminated Ontario’s Cap and Trade ‘pay to pollute’ oil use plan, and is joining Alberta in suing the federal government over Ottawa’s insistence that provinces implement their own petroleum reduction scheme, or face federal imposition.  Ford is also pulling out of a joint programme with the province of Quebec and the state of California to cooperate on petroleum reduction.

It is important to note that this powerful lobby of polluters does not merely buy off politicians.  It wages its own direct campaigns to stampede ordinary workers and other voters to support the political stooges loyal to Big Oil. This very expensive CAPP campaign stressed jobs and “prosperity”. One TV ad showed a young black woman holding a sign: “Is Canada closed for business?” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently paid $4.5 billion to Kinder Morgan to buy its pipeline assets in Canada, appears to be always open for the oil business. The purchase price gave Kinder Morgan shareholders a scandalous profit of 637% on the current market value of the assets.

If you are wondering why gas prices seem high these days, in part it is because your hard earned wages are subsidizing this kind of slick, expensive propaganda at the pump. Consumers are paying for the oil lobby to undermine our limited democracy. Who can afford to answer such high priced campaigns with the facts? Seriously folks, this should be illegal. And to those who cry ‘free speech’, we say free speech is a reality only when everybody is on an equal footing – not perched on a field treacherously tilted in favour of rich and powerful polluters.

The Golden Parachute

Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company in the world, with its headquarters in Toronto, is infamous for political skulduggery, anti-labour practices, and for environmentally hazardous mining projects in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Zambia.

To stay help stay the course, the multi-billion dollar firm just hired two arch-conservative, big business politicians to serve on its international advisory board at over a million dollars apiece, annually.

Joining the board at Barrick Gold are Canada’s former foreign affairs minister John Baird, and former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. Behold: the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.

The facts on Climate Change Demand A Radical Solution

by Evan Engering

The latest book of Naomi Klein, the influential Toronto-based journalist, author and activist, may live up to its ambitious title “This Changes Everything”. In it, Klein turns her thorough, eye-opening brand of investigative journalism to the topic of climate change. The book is a surprising achievement for a mainstream author. Her call for a new grassroots movement to rise up and defeat neo-liberalism and halt climate change has been publicized on television and in book stores across Canada and around the world.

Continue reading The facts on Climate Change Demand A Radical Solution

Canada and world march for climate solutions

by Barry Weisleder
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While hundreds of thousands marched in Manhattan, thousands took to the streets in cities across Canada to warn that climate change threatens civilization and life on Earth.
Demonstrations took place in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal and Calgary. In Toronto over 3,000 walked from City Hall through the downtown core. Hundreds travelled from Toronto by bus, train and car to participate in the huge New York march. Around the world, from London, England to Melbourne, Australia to Mexico City, to Bogota, Colombia, to Berlin, Germany, people paraded and rallied.
The protests were spurred by reports that the world pumped an estimated 36.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air last year by burning coal, oil and gas. That is 706 metric tons or 2.3 per cent more than in the previous year, according to the Global Carbon Project international team that tracks and calculates global emissions annually. The results were published in peer-reviewed journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Climate Change, in September.
The leading carbon polluters are China, the United States and India. But Canada’s tar sands industry in northern Alberta is one of the biggest single contributors to the climate change malaise.
The three largest parties in Parliament, the governing Conservatives, the Official Opposition labour-based New Democratic Party, and the Liberal Party all favour the construction of new pipelines to pump more bitumen-laced oil to thirsty markets – at the expense of nature, and to fuel private profit.