Climate Crisis & The Global Green New Deal

By Noam Chomsky, Robert Pollin and C J Polychroniou

Published by Verso Books, 2020, paperback rrp £12.99 / Bookbuster price £10.99

Review Tim Barton

A fortnight ago, the government signed an international agreement to ‘save nature’, key elements of which are “a renewed effort to reduce deforestation, halt unsustainable fishing practices, eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies and begin the transition to sustainable food production systems and a circular economy over the next decade” (the Guardian, 28/09/20).

Last week’s government announced measures to ‘ban’ anti-capitalist resources in schools is an attempt to stifle dissent. As to whether they can really roll this out, I can’t comment, but I can advise all teachers to give the government the finger and teach Marxist, and other post- and anti-capitalist ideas more overtly. Economics, Sociology and Geography are in essence partially in hock to ideas that are, by most interpretations, rather anti-capitalist. The Tory war on the Liberal Arts, begun most overtly by the philistine Gove, is reaching a crescendo, and a very dangerous one at that.

A ‘new green deal’ and ‘saving nature’ are clearly not compatible with a rapacious free-market market ideology. The brand of capitalism sourced in the Austrian and Chicago Schools of Economics, then promulgated globally via Reaganomics and Thatcherism, is now ubiquitous. It runs 100% counter to any resource-use reduction or pollution controls. It also guarantees unjust ‘devil take the hindmost’ first world elites will pick and choose who will survive the ravaging of the planet. Any just solution has to manage the economy to ensure equity in ‘solutions’, and viable solutions that can potentially avert war, famine and collapse. 

Intervention (of whatever kind, but here the emphasis is on ecology) is by definition, especially in the neoliberal model, anti-capitalist. Thus, this government reveals who truly holds the puppet-strings in our economy – not ‘the people’, as our so-called ‘democratic’ forms of governance might lead many to believe, as, clearly, the current economic model benefits primarily the rich and bred-to-rule elites. A shift from capitalist modes of economy is now more urgent than ever, yet the rats in the corner are (predictably) fighting dirtier by the day. As the Irish saying has it, ‘you can’t get there from here’.

As more and more people question the ‘status quo’, the government seeks to crack down harder and harder on dissent. The branding of Extinction Rebellion as ‘terrorists’ is yet another example. The irony is we need youth to engage with change, and urgently. Questioning how things are, and positing what could be, is more necessary than ever. A ‘democracy’ is not only not run on autocratic lines, but is a place where decisions are made by the people, for the people – and where ‘the people’ are furnished in their schooling by the tools necessary to become Citizens. Education in England has for decades treated the majority as an under-class, to be cajoled and brainwashed, with a minority of born rulers and occasional self-made upstarts told they are ‘better’, that is to say, also brainwashed. In Marxian terms we may talk of all classes being alienated from their true selves, but that lets our rulers off the hook too easily.

Chomsky has for many decades been America’s foremost Left/Anarchist intellectual. In this new book he joins a growing crowd of public intellectuals, including most recently Naomi Klein, in calling loudly and firmly for a green new deal, one that must by necessity have Boris and his gang of pirates frothing at the mouth. Chapter Four addresses specifically the need for ‘Political Mobilization to Save the Planet’, and the Appendix outlines a ‘Framework for Funding the Global Green New Deal’. It is not accidental that the catchphrase ‘New Deal’ has been adopted so widely – after all, the US economy was rebooted from the Great Depression by Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, an economic plan that many libertarians and right-wingers in the US regarded as essentially ‘communist’.

Well, something similar, but global, is an urgent necessity right now, and the UK government have very clearly aligned themselves with the forces of destruction. Chomsky and Pollen debate many of the factors driving the global economy to ecocidal self-destruction: their new book offers an urgent and necessary focus on real change. Buy this book, give copies away at Christmas and ensure it is widely read. Boris won’t like it but future generations truly will.

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