Books: Where science and socialism intersect

Polar bear

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.

A compelling case is 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 works 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 post-World War II fossil fuel usage 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, and reproducing itself.

The sub-title of the book, “Intersections of Science and Socialism,” signifies its strength. It affirms its commitment to build mass movements in the streets to challenge the powers that be. Effectiveness can best 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, and toward 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, it begs 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.