Revolution #200, May 1, 2010

Letter from a reader on the special issue on the environment

Just wanted to briefly convey my positive impression of this special issue. I have now had a chance to look it over in hardcopy version and I think that we should feel very good about this and make concrete plans to use this broadly and also in a more targeted manner in an ongoing way (i.e. not just a couple of weeks and then stick on the shelf!).

I feel that this issue succeeds on a number of levels: it does give a wide "sweep" of the nature and critical dimensions of the crisis (including with its increased emphasis now on ecosystem collapses, tipping points, domino effects etc); it shows that these communists actually know what they're talking about in this sphere (this will surprise a lot of people who tend to think that communists or "leftist activists" tend to be grossly ignorant of such matters); it manages to convey from many different angles "why it should matter to you" (including for more basic masses who might not have recognized the full scope of the crisis and that these issues are objectively of great concern for them as well, and not just some kind of self-indulgent preoccupation of the middle strata); it makes the case why these problems cannot be fundamentally changed within the framework of the capitalist system which is the primary source of these problems and which can do nothing other than stand in the way of solving them (and it breaks it down in good clear style that everyone should be able to follow -- I thought the explanation of "externalities" was much improved by the way); and it gives a sense that these revolutionary communists really are proposing a radically different approach, one that has some real substance (is not a bunch of empty slogans) and that should be seriously examined and engaged. And it does so with some serious science and materialism, but not in a way that comes off "cold" or without heart!

I don't know if we all fully realize just how surprising and unexpected all this may be for many people, those whose conception of communists (if they think of them at all) is that of a bunch of narrow and dogmatic economists who idolize "the workers" and whose concerns are narrowly those of the "labor movement" and such...Here I am not so much talking about the slanders and misconceptions about the experience of past revolutions and socialist societies which so many have swallowed whole but more of the actual encounters many may have had with the reification and economism modeled and promoted by revisionists of different stripes. That's why this environmental issue (much like The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters in that respect) is, among other things, a clarion call announcing that these are a whole different type of "communists" than what they might have expected...

This issue can really help lift the sights and broaden the horizon of many among the basic masses and help to provide yet another important angle on what it could mean to be "emancipators of humanity" (this issue needs to get into the prisons!!!); and for those middle strata people who are already pretty passionately concerned about the environmental crisis, this issue can serve as a real bridge between them and the rev coms and help forge some important connections as it encourages all to think more strategically (and ultimately more seriously) about what it's actually going to take to save this planet.

I also think this issue is going to be very important to get out among international forces, as it can serve as a model of how not to neglect this global crisis (out of reification and nationalism), how to understand it in the context of lopsidedness, how to tackle it correctly as part and parcel of advancing communist revolution (as opposed to leaving this type of issue to assorted social democrats). We should not fail to recognize the "spontaneous internationalism" of sorts which the global dimensions of the environmental crisis tends to engender among many people...and we should build on that.

We should make concrete plans for the use of this paper beyond Earth Day and these immediate weeks. I don't know what is involved with printing and reprinting an issue but we should maintain some capacity for doing that as the issues get used up. This is one issue in society where there IS a lot of "activism," from grassroots initiatives and meetings to professional conferences, from small-scale local settings, to the international stage. We should try to conceive of this issue as going around the world. We should make sure to get it to major figures who are working in this field or broadly concerned with it and ask such people if they can help get this special issue around a bit, making clear that we would welcome global feedback and further dialogue on these issues. We should take a book like Rewilding the World and send an issue to at least one person in each of those forward-thinking global conservation initiatives, asking them to read, comment and share it around. These people already communicate with each other, sharing papers and ideas etc, in loosely organized global "networks," so that it is not uncommon for some informal "papers" to circulate informally and show up on kitchen tables in Costa Rica, Brazil, Kenya and Nepal, to take just a few examples. We should try to piggy back on that existing circuit!

And of course there are the many grassroot gatherings and conferences and scientific meetings in this country...and it wouldn't hurt to try to send an issue to the editors of various conservation and other environmental focus professional journals or mass-market magazines. If it became a bit controversial and provoked some to comment online or in print about this special issue, this would be a very good thing and could help spur yet another important dimension of our overall campaign. Of course there is also no shortage of locations for broad hawking of the "special issue on the environment"! Read what the communist revolutionaries have to say about the global environmental crisis and what to do about it!" on the street, at music festivals and farmers' markets etc -- but it would be good if some people could also take charge of some more "focused" or "targeted" distribution to individuals and organizations who are already "dedicating themselves" to a significant degree to trying to save the planet in one or another dimension.

That's all I have time for now, but again, mainly I wanted to say that I think the paper staff ended up doing a really good job and I hope this could also be conveyed to everyone who worked so hard on this issue. A lot of important things are constantly being written and debated in this critical sphere. But where else have you ever seen anything like THIS? And conveying genuine hope, but here based on actual scientific materialism which correctly identifies the root source of the problem and what is required to turn things around in a positive direction. Well done.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond