Climate Change as Class War: Building Socialism on a Warming Planet

There is a consensus that climate change is a problem of inequality. Reams of research show how the richest contribute more emissions than the poor. Yet, this methodology rooted in carbon footprint analysis of consumption and lifestyle deploys an impoverished class analysis based simply on one’s income and consuming power. In this talk, I argue for a Marxist class analysis of climate change rooted in the relation to the means of production. From this standpoint, the climate crisis is not primarily a problem of ‘believing science’ or individual ‘carbon footprints’—it is a problem rooted in who owns, controls and profits from material production. From this basis, I review the class formation currently driving, and not delivering climate policy (the professional class), and the class with the social potential to win transformative climate action (the working class).

Cybernetic planning and climate change reversal

The worsening climate situation reveals the inability of the market system and of economic policy to deal with what conventional economics calls ”externalities”. We are faced with hard material constraints that any viable alternative to capitalism must be able to deal with. For example, we must produce a diverse basket of basic consumption goods, a certain number of hospital beds, and so on, while maintaining 10 gigaton per year net carbon dioxide sequestration. This challenge bears many similarities to problems considered in the study of cybernetics.

One qualitative change from the socialist calculation debate of the 1920’s is the invention of the digital computer and the internet. The rising computer-literacy in the population enables democratic computerized planning that can coordinate individual workplaces on a large scale. Our aim with this talk is twofold: on the one hand, to spark renewed interest around the potentials and challenges of cybernetic planning, and on the other hand, initiate development of and experimentation with such methods in the real world.

The talk begins with a brief history of planning, from Marx and Engels to Otto Neurath and Gosplan, and to modern thinkers like Stafford Beer and Paul Cockshott. We then go on to discuss how computerized macroeconomic coordination can be carried out that takes into account explicit material constraints. Such a system can continuously adjust recommended reallocations of productive resources, adapting to changes in the real world as fast as information can be put into the system and as fast as people can react to the suggestions provided by the system.
We identify maintaining viability as a key necessity of any post-capitalist economic system. By contrast, the consequences of runaway climate change is laying bare the inability of capitalist market economies to maintain viability. To turn a neoliberal slogan, there is no alternative to planning!

Tomas Härdin & David Zachariah

Det gäller att både tolka och förändra världen

Ur ekologiskt perspektiv övergick kapitalismen aldrig från absolut till relativ mervärdesproduktion utan är kvar i ett stadium av ursprunglig, primitiv ackumulation – kapital alstras fortfarande genom brutal expansion snarare än ”smart tillväxt”. Innebär det att ackumulation och tillväxt är dömda att förgöra världen, eller finns det sätt att skapa en hållbar(are) tillväxt? Är motsatsen, nedväxt, i sin tur möjlig och önskvärd? Hur ser de strategiska möjligheterna och förutsättningarna ut för att på kort sikt bryta med den nuvarande kapitalismens förödande miljö- och klimatpåverkan?

I denna situation måste teorins uppgift vara att både tolka världen och att förändra den. Tre nya böcker tar upp dessa frågeställningar ur olika perspektiv. I detta samtal möts Herman Geijer som skrivit Monstersamhället. Från förnekelse till framtiden, Ståle Holgersen, författare till Krisernas tid. Ekologi och ekonomi under kapitalismen, samt Rikard Hjorth Warlenius, aktuell med Klimatet, tillväxten och kapitalismen. Samtalet leds av Shabane Barot.

Expropriating hydrocarbons in the 21st century: Lessons from history

As oil and gas firms make ambitious announcements to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, we should not take these pledges in good faith. Given the intensifying climate crisis, and the sheer inadequacy of market-based mechanisms designed to nudge capital in the right direction, it’s becoming clearer we need a politics that confronts the property rights of the fossil fuel industry. In other words, we need a politics of expropriation. While there is much expanding literature in political ecology on what I’d call the negative forms of expropriation or dispossession – particularly of indigenous and others who rely on land directly for their livelihoods – it’s worth remembering the positive form of expropriation that Marx outlines where “the expropriators are expropriated.” This might sound too radical in our neoliberal era, but there is a rich history of energy and the expropriation of private property during the 19th and 20th Centuries. From the abolition of slavery (property in muscle power) to the series of expropriations of the very capitalists at the heart of the climate crisis (oil and gas), the climate movement should study these historical examples to imagine a 21st Century politics of expropriation.