“The left.” Since the French revolution, we don’t seem to be able to come up with a better term for that ill sorted group of malcontents, which numbers among its members dictators and democrats, torturers and tortured, Stalin, Gandhi, Mao, Martin Luther King, Pol Pot, and Emma Goldman. If “the left” is more than a Granfalloon — Kurt Vonnegut name for”a proud and meaningless association of human beings” — it has to share a common project. What could that be? Perhaps: “From each according to his [or her] ability, to each according to his [or her] need,”
You can’t be on the left and be for the 1% and against the 99%. You can be on the left without being an environmentalist. And vice versa. The left has always been concerned with history — the relations of people to each other. Nature has been in the background. The left has been an urban phenomenon. If historically the left has a position regarding nature, it is that nature is to be exploited for the benefit of the masses. Isaac Deutscher as an aside in his majestic three volume biography of Trotsky sums up the project of the left as “increasing man’s power over nature and abolishing man’s power over man.” If the goal of the left is to lift the burden of necessity on humanity and enlarge the realm of freedom, those two goals are linked and inseparable. And there lies the problem posed by the escalating climate crisis. Nature, history’s beast of burden, threatens to collapse under the load we have placed upon her, complicating and perhaps fatally compromising the great task of those who struggle for a better world awaiting.
~ from Apocalypse and the Left by Osha Neumann ~
Neumann makes a great point. By and large, only the Greens have understood and embraced the fight against climate change. I say this as someone who was involved in both the Socialist Party and the Green Party.
When I was involved with the reds, the environment was a backseat issue. Sure, we recognized that environmental issues impacted the salient economic ones, but our focus was almost predominantly on the latter, not the former. We reasoned that, if the important economic relationships could be transformed, this would have positive impact on the physical world.
The Greens come at it from the opposite direction. They contend that dealing with the environmental mess modern society has produced concurrently will change economic relationships. If only the modern industrial world would embrace sustainable practices, policies and regulations, then the economic sphere will have to change alongside.
The primary reason I switched from wearing red to wearing green is that, in time, I found the latter point of view more persuasive. And so, I became what many call a watermelon: green on the outside and red on the inside.
These days I am no longer formally aligned with either the reds or the Greens, but I still believe both perspectives have much to offer. In my view, both are far superior to what the mainstream political parties dispense.