“We will save all of creation!” Sen. Edward Markey claimed when he and House of Representatives member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launched their “Green New Deal” Feb. 7. Their scheme is backed by a number of Democratic Party 2020 presidential candidates and other liberals. But it is dangerous for the working class. It points away from a course of struggle against the capitalist rulers whose plunder undermines the two sources of all wealth — nature and the labor of working people.
The bill isn’t a set of proposals to vote on, it’s a nonbinding statement of intentions. It’s a schema to grow the capitalist government’s federal bureaucracy to regulate our lives in the name of saving the planet. Markey denounced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he said he intended to call for debate and a vote on the plan. Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi pointed to the plan’s lack of specifics, saying, “Nobody knows what it means but they’re for it, right?”
Supporters of the liberal Democrats’ crusade argue we’re all doomed unless drastic, immediate action is taken to reform capitalist rule. The model they point to is the capitalist rulers’ mobilization to massively expand their military might to win out over their rivals in the second imperialist world war. Ocasio-Cortez praises Washington’s war production and victory.
“Large sections of the planet will be rendered uninhabitable,” if the deal is not adopted, threatened New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo Feb. 13.
Such hysteria campaigns “are both endemic to and necessary for the maintenance of capitalist social relations,” explains a Socialist Workers Party resolution, “The Stewardship of Nature Also Falls to the Working Class, In Defense of Land and Labor,” published in New International no. 14.
They are aimed at preventing working people “from recognizing the actual source of these threats to civilization: the capitalist mode of production, the world imperialist order and the enormous wealth and power the rulers wring from nature and the exploited producers. Their aim is to instill fear and paralysis among working people.”
Is the answer to reform capitalism?
The liberals’ plan is a 10-year forced march to eliminate all fossil fuel from manufacturing, power production and our lives. It would get rid of all nonbattery operated cars, air travel, and rebuild or refit every building in the country. The only possible delays, a document released by Ocasio-Cortez said, would be “because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
This “plan” is accompanied by a plethora of other proposed reforms of capitalism, described as modeled on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. Like this scheme, that “deal” was aimed at saving the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. It culminated in the rulers’ drive to World War II, no strike legislation and the internment of virtually all Japanese-Americans.
When Ocasio-Cortez’s office issued a FAQ statement designed to offer more detail on the scheme, it brought forth ridicule from some in the press. One proposal said it would guarantee “economic security” to all those “unwilling to work.” Her office withdrew the document, claiming it was issued “by mistake.”
The Democratic Socialists of America member argues, “Americans love a challenge. This is our moonshot.” But we aren’t all “Americans,” the U.S. is class-divided. And what’s good for the capitalist exploiters usually means something bad for working people.
“My job is to make sure that people are protected in society,” Ocasio-Cortez says, adding that requires “massive government intervention.” But urging increased reliance for protection on a state bureaucracy organized to serve the capitalist rulers’ interests is not a way to build working people’s fighting capacities, self-confidence or independent organization, nor to halt the rulers’ contamination of the environment. As the SWP statement explains, that “falls to the working class,” and will only be advanced when we struggle together with fellow workers against the rulers’ grinding assaults, transform ourselves in the process and chart a course to take political power out of their hands.
Ocasio-Cortez promotes a fake socialism that says progress can be built while the lawful workings of the market system and the rule of capital remain.
Road forward is working-class struggle
The SWP resolution explains that the “fight for safety on the job is inseparable from social and political struggles by vanguard workers and the union movement to combat the exploiters’ … fouling of the earth, water and skies.” It points to the need for working people to fight to “impose workers control over the industries where we create wealth expropriated from us by the ruling capitalist families.”
As long as the capitalist rulers hold power they will continue exploiting us and poisoning the atmosphere as they are driven to maximize profits in conflicts with their rivals. All radical reform programs simply try to gloss over this reality. Organizing to build a party that can lead the working class to take power out of their hands does open a way forward.
“If we translate everything commonly thought of as an environmental issue into how to advance the protection of the working class, and how the working class can extend that protection to all,” the Socialist Workers Party resolution states, “then we can hardly ever go wrong.”