Thursday 22 August 2019

The Wrong Amazon is Burning

There isn't much more depressing than watching the Amazon burn. And is there anything more infuriating than watching Jair Bolsonaro trolling the world about it? The crooked, clownish creep has argued NGOs are torching the jungle because he cut their funding, and feeding off the blowback he's moved in to false contrition. Brazil doesn't have the resources to fight the fires he claims, and that's that. The sun rises in the morning, and rain forests are getting reduced to ash. Such is the order of things and he can't do anything about it.

It's tempting to blame Bolsonaro for all that is rotten in Brazil, as if this uniquely evil/stupid individual turns everything to shit with his touch. Tempting, but far too simplistic. Like his many analogues elsewhere - Trump, Duterte, Orban, Netanyahu to name several - Bolsonaro and friends will, if there's any justice, get their time in the dock. Yet they cannot be separated from the power bloc who put them there and the political project they're determined to wage. In Brazil's case, it's not to bring fascism back: Bolsonaro's election is an opportunity for capital and state cadres to reinforce authoritarian rule, tilting power decisively toward business and its satraps, and creating a new Wild West where the writ of profit is the bottom line and the only law is the law of value. And so the culture of impunity Bolsonaro promised at his inauguration so the police can roll up their sleeves and get on with eradicating crime without rules or accountability before the law is the setting for every other constituency who backed him. It's open season on LGBTQ+ people and indigenous people. For corruption and dodgy deals. And for logging companies, land owners, and small scale farmers to clear forest for short-term profits - and long-term consequences for the rest of us. And in case you forgot Bolsonaro was elected on a clear class prospectus, privatising state assets, throwing regulations into the Amazon bonfire, and attacking workers' pensions are as central to his coalition as climate change denial.

Taking out Bolsonaro as I've seen some muse aloud about in recent days wouldn't change the situation one jot. The vice president, Hamilton MourĂ£o is just as authoritarian as the president, and has similar semi-fascist, semi-conspiracist politics. Though, in one of those grim ironies of which history is often fond, he is now also the most senior ethnically indigenous politician in the country. And the power bloc itself, an allied assembly of agricultural capital, finance, the metropolitan middle class, small business not only has deep roots within Brazil but is simultaneous allied to and a dependable friend of global capital. Who invests in the logging companies? What role does Western capital have in mineral right exploration of cleared forests? And considering Bolsonaro's determination to rip up the thin gains of the Workers' Party years, how much do our banks, our hedge funds, and our pension funds project to gain from swooping in and turning a quick bunk from Brazil's privatisation programme? Quite a bit one would suggest, seeing as the soft coup that turfed the Workers' Party out of office and gave the hard right their run to power got the seal of approval from liberal hero and all-round nice guy, Barack Obama.

Nevertheless, this is where there is a political opening. Seeing the flames eating the jungle is thoroughly dispiriting and underlines the ten-a-penny apocalyptic and catastrophist forecasts for the future. It's over there, so what can we do over here? The outrage and anger elicited is simultaneously stymied and amplified by our powerlessness and impotence, but far from a fatal acceptance there is, in fact, plenty to be done. Protests and actions against institutional investors with Brazilian interests in their portfolios can throw a spanner into Bolsonaro's works, and no doubt this is something Extinction Rebellion and environmentalist NGOs are thinking about. More importantly, we're at one of those crossroads moments where the left have a realistic chance of taking power both in the UK and the United States. As green industry and climate justice is central to both programmes, the left is in a position of harnessing this anger not just to put pressure on the culprits but to ride it into office. And if it's serious about holding power, the City and finance capital have to be taken on - and part and parcel of this would be curbing the role "our" capital is playing in the destruction of the Amazon, and forcing the pace of climate change.

In other words, you can have continued degradation and the barbarism of starvation and global heating with capitalism, or a sustainable, better future with socialism. With every day that passes, the way ahead gets ever more stark.

NB Cheers to @AliceAvizandum for providing the title.

Image credit


Boffy said...

A rather Sismondist rather than Marxist approach I'd have to say.

The problems for a country like Brazil, is rather like Marx's description of the development of capitalism in Germany.

"Where capitalist production is fully naturalised among the Germans (for instance, in the factories proper) the condition of things is much worse than in England, because the counterpoise of the Factory Acts is wanting. In all other spheres, we, like all the rest of Continental Western Europe, suffer not only from the development of capitalist production, but also from the incompleteness of that development. Alongside the modern evils, a whole series of inherited evils oppress us, arising from the passive survival of antiquated modes of production, with their inevitable train of social and political anachronisms. We suffer not only from the living, but from the dead."

Or Lenin said in relation to the same process in Russia.

“And from these principles it follows that the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary. In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all the remnants of the old order which are hampering the broad, free and rapid development of capitalism is of decided advantage to the working class.”

Nor can we ignore the fact that sometimes individuals can have an effect on immediate events, whether it is a Bolsonaro, a Trump, a Pol Pot, or a Mao, who by ignorant acts can inflict devastation, in the short term.

The argument against capitalism is not based upon catastrophe, poverty and the like. If it were then its a bad case, for the reasons Marx and Lenin, describe above, and as Marx described as far back as the Manifesto, setting out the tremendously progressive, revolutionary role that capitalism has performed. Since that time, capitalism has lifted hundreds of millions of grinding poverty and starvation, it has eradicated many killer diseases - polio looking to be the latest. In many places it has actually improved environmental conditions, such as here in Britain, where we no longer have shit simply thrown from windows into the street etc. It has developed technologies such as solar energy, and potentially nuclear fusion, which will provide the energy the world's millions need to raise their living standards whilst ending carbon emissions etc.

The argument is FOR Socialism not anti-capitalism, on the basis that we now have the potential to provide all of the advantages that capitalism has created for us, but without the downsides, including the periodic crises.

Phil said...

It's almost like you didn't read the post. "Sismondist" my arse.

Boffy said...

Oh I read the post alright.

The title pretty much sums it up. Which Amazon would be the right one to be burning? Could it be the one that if it did burn would leave millions of workers across the globe without a job, including thousands in Britain? Talk about Sismondism, let alone Luddism.

But, the last paragraph also sums it up.

"In other words, you can have continued degradation and the barbarism of starvation and global heating with capitalism, or a sustainable, better future with socialism. With every day that passes, the way ahead gets ever more stark."

Completely, one sided "anti-capitalism", totally devoid of the nuance provided by Marx, and other classical Marxists.

And this,

"Yet they cannot be separated from the power bloc who put them there and the political project they're determined to wage."

But, who exactly is that power bloc. Its certainly not that represented by the dominant sections of the ruling class, whose power derives from their control of large multinationals. They are the ones who in the main oppose Trump et al, in the same way they oppose Bojo, as the Uk variant, and his promotion of Brexit, as with Trump's promotion of economic nationalism in the US.

And, in fact you say it yourself,

"logging companies, land owners, and small scale farmers to clear forest for short-term profits"

Precisely, backward sections of capital, and of the petit-bourgeoisie.

Boffy said...

And this is a dangerous fantasy.

"More importantly, we're at one of those crossroads moments where the left have a realistic chance of taking power both in the UK and the United States."

There is absolutely no realistic chance of the Left (whatever that means as opposed to the working-class, because it is classes that take power, not political groupings, other than in the case of Bonapartism) taking power in Britain, let alone the US in he foreseeable future. Absolutely none, zilch.

Your statement reflects your miseducation as a result of your previous membership of the Socialist Party, whose predecessors, the Militant Tendency used to repeatedly purvey this dangerous, reformist nonsense about Labour taking "power", when in fact all that Labour had any prospect of taking was governmental office.

Confusing taking governmental office with taking power, i.e. taking state power, which requires that the working-class becomes the ruling social class, smashes the capitalist state, and creates a workers state in its place, is a dangerous reformist fantasy that has been purveyed by Stalinists and their fellow travellers.

The consequence of failing to recognise the difference between the two was seen when the Stalinist Allende took governmental office in Chile in the 1970's, and then found that when the measures that government introduced infringed the interests of the Chilean ruling class, his government was far from having taken "power", as that ruling class mobilised the Chilean capitalist state to simply wipe out of existence Allende and his government, and unfortunately thousands of Chilean workers along with it.

There is absolutely no realistic chance that British let alone US workers are going to become the ruling class, and smash the capitalist state in the foreseeable future, or, therefore, of those working-classes, or "The Left" taking power. There is some chance that a Corbyn government might get elected, if he abandons decisively his reactionary Brexit stance, and Labour rebuilds the coalition of anti-Tory forces that provided it with its votes in 2017.

But, even that does not represent the "Left" even taking governmental office. Corbyn's Labour represents nothing more than a return to traditional Labourism, of the variety of Attlee and Wilson. Neither of those governments decisively shifted the balance of class power in Britain. On the contrary they sowed the seeds for conservative governments to replace them. Corbyn and the Labour leadership have, in fact, shown time and again over the last three years that at the first sign of pressure from their Right they capitulate, and compromise, which is hardly a good omen for the way they would act in government when the opposition they would face would increase ten fold.

Phil said...

This is why I don't usually bother responding to your comments. You take a tongue in cheek title literally, you show absolutely no understanding (or interest) in the fact bourgeois politics has mass support and relies on coalitions between sections of capital and different layers of popular strata, and all you offer is politically pedestrian pedantry. If I am channelling the Socialist Party, you more than embody the other Socialist Party - the one that has sat out all the class battles of the 20th century while "campaigning" for full socialism or nothing.

Boffy said...

And you haven't answered this comment either. You have avoided doing so by simply providing us with pedantry and sophistry.

Had it just been a question of ignoring the title I'd agree that it could be taken as tongue in cheek, but it wasn't just the title, but also the last paragraph and tenor of the whole piece. Which was a repetition of the Socialism or Barbarism mantra, which itself makes your current reply that its me that is proposing "full socialism or nothing" ironic in the extreme!

Your statement that bourgeois politics has mass support etc. is meaningless, and mechanistic. It assumes that there is some single homogeneous bourgeois politics, as a solid bloc, and thereby lacks all of the nuance of Marxist analysis, for example, as set out by Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire.

Are you really suggesting that there is just one homogeneous bourgeois politics that for example, supports Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson et al. In which case, how do you explain the huge opposition to Brexit from within the ranks of the dominant sections of capital?

If you want to understand the nature of those coalitions I'd suggest looking at the fact that the coalition that stands behind Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson etc. is that comprising the small capitalists, backward sections of the middle class, and atomised and demoralised sections of the working-class, whereas that comprising opposition to those elements comes from a coalition of the representatives of big, particularly multinational capital, with the more advanced sections of the working-class.

In other words, it is a coalition between the progressive elements of capital and workers, against a coalition of the reactionary elements of capital, and demoralised sections of workers.

I am not surprised you fail to understand that because like the Stalinists, the Socialist Party, the SWP, George Galloway and others that have signed up to the Red-Brown nationalist coalition that is now collapsing into the Faragist Brexit company, you have from the start put yourself in the wrong class camp in that struggle.

David Parry said...


'If I am channelling the Socialist Party, you more than embody the other Socialist Party - the one that has sat out all the class battles of the 20th century while "campaigning" for full socialism or nothing.'

Are you referring to the 'Small Party of Good Boys', as they've been called?

The poster with no Name said...

Wasn’t it predictable that when confronted with the burning of the Amazon Boffy would raise the civilising mission of capitalism? I have been saying for years that this is what Boffy has reduced Marxism to, a crude apology for the death cult that is capitalism. When Marx say man has to master nature that colossal idiot Boffy has reckoned this amounts to concreting over the planet, so for Boffy turning a woodland into a motor service station is the epitomy of progress. Every real Marxist on the planet should detest Boffy with the passion I do. And you know what many of them do!

Capitalism is a system out of tme and out of place, a true fetter in the best Marxist sense of the word. When faced with overwhelming scientific evidence that capitalism’s insane production for productions sake market system is destroying the actual environment we live in, what do the brainwashed death cultists of capitalism do? They just carry on. What else can you expect from a death cult?

I said this in another thread, Marx had 2 main criticisms of capitalism, firstly its exploitative nature and secondly and most importantly, its anarchic character, where it cannot control the productive powers it has created. It cannot control it because capitalism is a system of demand and supply and cannot be anything other than a system of creating wants for consumers, consumers who have to be passive. So children in the playground feel alienated if they don’t have the right pair of trainers etc. This is not civilising, this is not normal, it is a pathology that needs to be destroyed before it’s too late.

Marxists are ok with explaining the exploitative nature of capitalism but are utterly appalling at dealing with Marx’s second criticism, the anarchy of this system.

Boffy is another planet altogether, he is simply a servile lackey of the bourgeois and their vile, ruinous interests.

The movement among the advanced sections of the masses it toward a totally different conception if how humanity organisers itself, see Rory Spowers for example. These people are the actually existing communists of our day. Boffy is an anti communist, he would not be out of place on fox news.

DFTM said...

Boffy is so imbued with the bourgeois mentality. He says amazon are creating jobs across the globe, but you could just easily say they are diverting resources from other areas! If person A hadn’t been employed by Amazon they could have been employed in nursing, or being a bus driver or some other socially useful employment. But surely the whole point about amazon is that they are efficient which must mean they are automating the economy and therefore creating a net loss when it comes to job creation. If they are creating jobs then I don’t see any use for amazon whatsoever! That would mean they are actually making things less efficient!

The destruction of the rainforest is being driven by the prospect of making billions on an industry that serves no need other than making billions. The wanton destruction of vast areas during a climate crisis is not part of any civilising mission but is illustrative of capitalisms stark barbarity.

This destruction is not driven by certain sections of the ruling class; it is driven by capitalism incessant need to accumulate. And on that score every member of the ruling class shares in this mania.

This destruction is not driven by the immediate actions of a single individual but by the actions of an entire industry lobbying for its interests.

A brilliant video was posted on this site from RT, which outlines how these companies lobby governments to further their interests, often with a reckless disregard for the environment and the people who live on it.

If Boffy had been around during the highland clearances he would have claimed this was lifting people out of poverty. But then that depends on how you define poverty. For example the Aborigines never assumed they lived in poverty until the white man arrived, who when stealing their land had to explain to them how they were being lifted out of poverty!

Oh and polio was a disease that thrived precisely in the conditions created by capitalism, so while we have to thank it for providing a cure we also have to thank it for becoming a huge problem, to the point it was the world’s most feared disease! That is called dialectics!