re Communism Against Earth
Related to Idomdrottning’s post:
Tug of war on the brink will lead to both falling over.
There are already many examples where capitalist institutions utilise environmentalist arguments in order to maintain hegemony. A common tactic seems to be creating some kind of division between ‘reckless populists’ who advocate for things like abolishing carbon taxes that adversely affect working people and the ‘sensible middle-class/elite’ who accept the need for ‘sacrifices’ to save the planet. Of course, those who are in favour of these economic sacrifices also tend to be the ones that can afford it.
However, there also seems to be a trend in the other direction too. Socialist political movements/parties sometimes use environmental initiatives to set themselves up as protectors of the ‘victims’ (farmers, truck drivers, etc.)
This conflict has been playing out for a long time in France, and has recently become more prominent in Ireland where Sinn Fein, the main opposition, has become the most popular party. Sinn Fein will often take a ‘populist’ stance against government regulations around environmental issues (carbon tax, peat restrictions, etc). They will claim that these measures unfairly disadvanatge lower-income groups. For example, when the government sought to ban the sale of peat/turf in order to conserve Ireland’s rapidly dwindling boglands, Sinn Fein’s opposition on the basis that such an initiative would disproportionately affect rural communities successfully postponed the ban. Those in power - who also happen to be rapidly losing this power - will simply say that Sinn Fein are not responsible enough when it comes to the planet. On the other side, Sinn Fein and rural independent TDs will use proposed environmental regulations as proof that the current government does not support working people and rural communities, that it is more concerned with ‘global image/representation’ than the people of Ireland, etc. The environment becomes a wedge issue. A polictical theater is set up where you are either on the side of rural communities and working people, or you are on the side of the ‘global agenda’ around climate change.
As I said, Sinn Fein are the most popular party now. Suggesting that people aren’t buying the government tactic of painting Sinn Fein as environmentally irresponsible. In economically challenging times, people don’t care about the environment.
As much as I agree with the spirit of Sinn Fein’s approach, the sad thing is that the policies the government are advocating are sacrifices that we probably do need to make. And, yes, rural communities in Ireland may be disproportionately affected. For example, 37% of Irish greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture. Agriculture and the communities around it are a huge part of Irish identity, and play a role in energising the nationalist streak in Sinn Fein’s support. It’s doubtful that Sinn Fein would have the political courage to go against this identity, even though there are so many ways it could work to re-imagine it in more progressive, environmentally-conscious ways.
What does this have to do with communism though? Sinn Fein are not a communist party, nor are many other socialist parties that get branded as ‘communist’ by the right wing. This is maybe part of the problem.
In an ideal, communist, sense, the very division that is being exploited by both the ruling elite and the socialist Sinn Fein would be dissolved. Communism, in theory, is a system which would be beyond this kind of idological conflict, a conflict that is fueling climate inaction in Ireland.
This is perhaps a case where pursuing communism would be preferable to pursing an environmentalist/anti-doomsday agenda. From a communist perspective, the ideological situation of capitalism places restraints on what can meaningfully be achieved through political discourse. Before we can even talk about the environment in a way that actually brings about change, we need to change the framework of communication and discourse.
Now, history also has plenty of examples of communist movements themselves descending into divisive factions leveraging wedge issues for power, so maybe communism is not necessarily the ‘savoiur’ in this regard. But, I do think that before we can solve the environment-problem, we need to solve the systemic issues and ‘divide and conquer’ strategy of the ruling class that communism at least points to.
Or, perhaps the kind of commitment to the planet that idomdrottning beautifully expresses can become the foundation for a new politics that is ‘post’ this kind of divisive discourse that we now find in Ireland.