US CAPITALISM NEWSLETTER #23, January 31, 2021.
Compiled by Dick Bennett for a Culture of Peace, Justice, and Ecology.
What’s at stake: We seek an economic system for all people and species that enables affirmative government and supports domestic and international peace, economic and social justice, human rights, democracy, and protects and enhances the earth and species. [For more see What’s at stake in Newsletter #18.]
Contents: US Capitalism Newsletter #23, Jan. 31, 2021
Foster, et al. The Ecological Rift
Alperovitz, Governing for Sustainability
Weissman, Citizens United, Gov Contractors, Elections
Wilkin and Martin, Sustainable Parenting, Teaching Caring v. Capitalism
Lowy, A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe
Wittner, The US Is #1 in ?? Consequences of Capitalism
The huge ecological rift driven between human beings and nature by capitalism
The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth
by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York. MONTHLY REVIEW: AN INDEPENDENT SOCIALIST MAGAZINE, 2011.
Humanity in the twenty-first century is facing what might be described as its ultimate environmental catastrophe: the destruction of the climate that has nurtured human civilization and with it the basis of life on earth as we know it. All ecosystems on the planet are now in decline. Enormous rifts have been driven through the delicate fabric of the biosphere. The economy and the earth are headed for a fateful collision—if we don’t alter course.
In The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth, environmental sociologists John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York offer a radical assessment of both the problem and the solution. They argue that the source of our ecological crisis lies in the paradox of wealth in capitalist society, which expands individual riches at the expense of public wealth, including the wealth of nature. In the process, a huge ecological rift is driven between human beings and nature, undermining the conditions of sustainable existence: a rift in the metabolic relation between humanity and nature that is irreparable within capitalist society, since integral to its very laws of motion.
Critically examining the sanguine arguments of mainstream economists and technologists, Foster, Clark, and York insist instead that fundamental changes in social relations must occur if the ecological (and social) problems presently facing us are to be transcended. Their analysis relies on the development of a deep dialectical naturalism concerned with issues of ecology and evolution and their interaction with the economy. Importantly, they offer reasons for revolutionary hope in moving beyond the regime of capital and toward a society of sustainable human development.
Praise for the book:
This book is desperately needed, because it ends any illusion that we can solve our pressing environmental crises within the same system that created them. With tweaking the system—using incremental market-based strategies—off the table, we can put our efforts into genuine, lasting solutions. —Annie Leonard, author and host, Story of Stuff
Marx’s concept of ‘metabolic rift’ in the circulation of soil nutrients between countryside and town is generalized by Foster, Clark, and York to an insightful Marxist analysis of the current ecological rift between modern capitalism and the ecosystem. It is a scholarly, well-referenced, and important contribution. —Herman E. Daly, Professor Emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland and author, Beyond Growth
This important book treats industrial capitalism as the globally destructive force that it is, and powerfully points the way toward, as the authors put it, ‘universal revolts against imperialism, the destruction of the planet, and the treadmill of accumulation.’ We need these revolts if we are to survive. This book is a crucial part of that struggle. —Derrick Jensen, author, Endgame and The Culture of Make Believe
This timely new work promises to become a basic resource in understanding the incompatibility between capitalism and ecology, and also in arguing for the ecological dimensions of any future socialism. —Fredric Jameson, Professor, Duke University; author, Valences of the Dialectic
The Ecological Rift deserves to—and needs to—become a classic in its field.
—Simon Butler, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review. He is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and author of The Ecological Revolution, The Great Financial Crisis (with Fred Magdoff), Critique of Intelligent Design (with Brett Clark and Richard York), Ecology Against Capitalism, Marx’s Ecology, and The Vulnerable Planet. Brett Clark is assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. He is coauthor (with John Bellamy Foster and Richard York) of Critique of Intelligent Design. Richard York is associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He is co-editor of the journal Organization & Environment and coauthor (with John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark) of Critique of Intelligent Design.
FROM PRIVATE ACCUMULATION, PURSUIT OF PERSONAL PROFIT, AND CONCENTRATION OF WEALTH, AND ENORMOUS INEQUITIES, TO PUBLIC GOOD
Gar Alperovitz, “The Political-Economic Foundations of a Sustainable System,” Ch. 18, Governing for Sustainability, The Worldwatch Institute, State of the World 2014. Analysis by Dick Bennett.
Section One: Alperovitz, like Klein, asks us to master a new story with a new set of characters and contexts and vocabulary. Ridding ourselves of US capitalism requires us to give our minds a thorough wash, after lifetimes of indoctrination favoring an economic system of self-aggrandizement, and then commit ourselves to the struggle to replace that pernicious system by one that serves and cares for the planet and its inhabitants. Here is his central statement: “…getting serious about sustainability requires focused attention on why public policy support has, at best, been able to slow but not stop ecological deterioration. The roots of this challenge lie in the growing concentration of wealth and income and the consequent self-reinforcing capture of the machinery of politics to serve private ends.” The rest of the essay discusses symptoms of this conquest and how we can restore public ends. Examples of the symptoms, in addition of course to the steady concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals devoted to capital accumulation instead of the public good, are: the dispersal of cities and the destruction of labor unions.
Section Two, “What Does Justice Require?” summarizes a case against the “enormous inequities of today” and for more equal societies simply because equality (equity, fairness, justice) produce a better world (e.g., better health) for all. Here Alperovitz digs into the conceptual corrosions that prevent us from bonding as communities and rising up against the system’s wrongs, especially the long, powerfully funded and organized manipulation of the ideas of “private” and “public.” Contrary to the constructed wisdom, the glorified “private” market system is in fact highly subsidized by the public, and the rich are rich by having grabbed common assets egregiously. Read pp. 194-95 carefully.
Section Three, “Building an Alternative,” singles out “community wealth building as the place to begin developing an alternative.” These institutions “—non-profits, cooperatives, employee-owned institutions, land trusts, community corporations—“create living-wage jobs, and anchor those jobs in communities.”
Section Four, “International Developments,” extends the argument and examples globally, to the worker cooperative movements of Argentina and Mondragon in Spain, and the consumer cooperatives. Some countries, Italy and Japan for example, have strong worker and consumer cooperatives.
Section Five, “Next Steps,” explains ways the people’s economic power can be translated into political power, how “locally anchored jobs and investment” can become the national system “to build political support for sustained green transition” and a durable democracy. This will require an enormous struggle by the people, but we have done it before with FDR’s/Democratic Party’s New Deal. A key concluding statement: “The ultimate goal of these strategies is to undermine and eventually replace the destructive ‘grow or die’ imperative inherent in the current market-driven system.” [See Alperovitz’s book: What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution. 2013.]
SUBVERSION OF US REPUBLIC BY MONEY--CITIZENS UNITED—AND RESISTANCE
Public Citizen: Urge President Obama to require all federal contractors to disclose how much they spend trying to influence elections.
9:46 AM (4 minutes ago)
We have our very best chance to severely disrupt Citizens United since the moment the United States Supreme Court handed down that abominable ruling more than five years ago.
But we have some hard work to do.
HERE’S WHERE THINGS STAND:
Thanks to a campaign spearheaded by Public Citizen, President Obama is thinking about requiring all federal contractors to disclose how much they spend trying to influence elections.
Don’t mistake this for some bureaucratic triviality.
Our taxpayer dollars go to thousands of companies — including most of the largest corporations — that supply the government with everything from pencils to toilet seats to nuclear submarines.
And, because of Citizens United, those corporations can secretly spend literally as much as they want supporting (or attacking) politicians.
However, with an executive order from the president requiring transparency, we can prevent Big Business from corrupting our democracy with all that dark money.
HERE’S HOW WE GOT THIS FAR:
Over the past few months, Public Citizen and our allies have made a major push to win White House support for this much-needed rule.
We’ve collected more than 600,000 petition signatures in support of dragging the dark money out of the shadows.
Last week — on the anniversary of another horrid Supreme Court campaign finance ruling, McCutcheon v. FEC — we held a rousing demonstration in front of the White House (and brought all those petitions to deliver to President Obama).
With allies, we also organized rallies in 50 cities around the country — from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Concord, New Hampshire — in support of the executive order.
Those are absolutely stunning numbers.
But we have more to do.
HERE’S HOW WE WIN:
In the weeks ahead, we’re going to:
· Direct thousands of calls to the White House from concerned citizens across the country demanding presidential action on political spending by corporations that do business with the government.
· Organize members of Congress to add their voices to the nationwide grassroots demand for disclosure. Constituents across the country will contact their representatives and senators — by email, by phone and in person — and urge them to ask President Obama to act.
· Provide policymakers our detailed and technical expertise to back up the push for an executive order.
· Build on our success in generating media support for contractor disclosure — including a recent column published by The New York Times.
· Use social media tools to engage more and more Americans in this critical opportunity.
One of the things that
distinguishes Public Citizen as such a powerful public interest organization is
our ability to deploy so many different advocacy tools: organizing and
lobbying; research and legal analysis; traditional media outreach and
innovative online advocacy; and much more.
And we are going to bring everything we’ve got to strike a blow against Citizens United.
Your support can help lock down this benchmark victory against Citizens United and power all the work we’re doing together to preserve democracy.
Can you chip in $5 or more?
We can make history.
President, Public Citizen © 2015 Public Citizen • 1600 20th Street, NW / Washington, D.C. 20009 • unsubscribe
HOW WE CAN MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM THE SELF-REGARDING CULTURE OF US
CAPITALISM TO THE OTHER-REGARDING CULTURE OF CARING : EDUCATION
Sustainable Parenting: Unlocking Our Human Potential - Healing Our Plundered Planet. January 28, 2014. Donovan C. Wilkin Ph. D., Cynthia D. Martin Ph. D.
What if civilization disappeared virtually overnight, including 90% of the world’s population? What if the survivors had to start over on a desperately depleted planet? A growing number of prominent experts is warning of the potential collapse of human civilization before the middle of this century. What sort of human culture might re-emerge? Wilkin and Martin believe a more sustainable culture with a higher and more equitable quality of life is not only possible, but with a better understanding of evolution, probable. The key is in teaching children to be more caring, sharing, and tolerant of differences, as well as instilling deep reverence and respect for the natural world. This highly readable collection of parenting tips based in an ecological perspective on the latest childhood development research is intended to educate today’s parents, the first and most important teachers of tomorrow’s pioneers, in the skills they will need to establish a more livable and lasting human culture.
PRESERVATION OF THE PLANET V. DESTRUCTION BY CAPITALISM
Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe BY MICHAEL LÖWY. Haymarket, 2015.
Capitalism is killing the planet, and the preservation of a natural environment favorable to human life requires a radical alternative. In this new collection of essays, long time revolutionary and environmental activist Michael Löwy offers a vision of ecosocialist transformation. This vision combines an understanding of the destructive logic of the capitalist system with an appreciation for ongoing struggles, particularly in Latin America.
About the author
Michael Löwy is emeritus research director at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research). His books, On Changing the World and the Politics of Combined and Uneven Development have been translated into twenty-nine languages.
Praise for On Changing the World:
“His collection of essays, combining scholarship with passion, impresses by its sweep and scope.” —Daniel Singer, author, Prelude to Revolution
“Michael Löwy is unquestionably a tremendous figure in the decades-long attempt to recover an authentic revolutionary tradition from the wreckage of Stalinism, and these essays are very often powerful examples of this process.” —Dominic Alexander, Counterfire
Michael Löwy, Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe. Haymarket, 2015.
For me personally the most revealing expose of the politics of global warming is James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren (2009). By 1988 Hansen knew the terrible truth of increasing CO2 leading to global warming, and he tried to tell Pres. George W. Bush. Clever Bush advisers invited him to make a presentation at the White House, followed by a bought scientist who argued uncertainty, the well-honed corporate tricksterisms to prevent public awareness of scientific truth. The President could say, I listened to two notable scientists on both sides--peril or not--and decided Hansen was not convincing--and the US lost a decade of effective prevention of climate change.
Lowy opens (Preface, p. 2) with a quotation from Hansen’s book: “Planet earth…is in imminent peril”; it is the rock on which Lowy makes his case for a radical change in our dominant economic system, which he labels ecosocialism.
“Ecosocialism is a political current based on an essential insight: that preserving the ecological equilibrium of the planet and therefore an environment favorable to living species, including ours, is incompatible with the expansive and destructive logic of the capitalist system” (vii). –Dick
THE CONSEQUENCES OF US CAPITALISM: A SUMMARY
WITTNER THE BLOG
The United States Is Number 1 -- But in What? 10/13/2014 01:54 pm ET | Updated Dec 13, 2014 [I read it in The Free Weekly, Fayetteville, AR, 10-30-14, www.freeweekly.com --Dick]
American politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Is there any evidence for this claim?
Well, yes. When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1. In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.) From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government's almost unbroken series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it also seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence.
This record is paralleled on the domestic front, where the United States has more guns and gun deaths than any other country. A study released in late 2013 reported that the United States had 88 guns for every 100 people, and 40 gun-related deaths for every 400,000 people―more than any of the 27 economically developed countries studied. By contrast, in Britain there were 6 guns per 100 people and 1 gun-related death per 400,000 people.
Yet, in a great many other areas, the United States is not No. 1 at all.
Take education. In late 2013, the Program for International Student Assessmentreleased a ranking of how 15-year old students from 65 nations performed on its tests. It showed that U.S. students ranked 17th in reading and 21st in math. Aninternational survey a bit earlier that year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the ranking was roughly the same among American adults. In 2014, Pearson, a multinational educational company, placed the United States 20th in the world in "educational attainment" ― well behind Poland and Slovakia.
American health care and health fare even worse. In a 2014 study of health care (including infant mortality, healthy life expectancy, and mortality from preventable conditions) in 11 advanced industrial countries, the Commonwealth Fund concluded that the United States ranked last among them. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. health care system ranks 37th in the world. Other studies reach somewhat different conclusions, but all are very unflattering to the United States, as are studies of American health. The United States, for example, has one of the world's worst cancer rates (the seventh highest), and life expectancy is declining compared to other nations. An article in the Washington Post in late 2013 reported that the United States ranked 26th among nations in life expectancy, and that the average American lifespan had fallen a year behind the international average.
And what about the environment? Specialists at Yale University have developed a highly sophisticated Environmental Performance Index to examine the behavior of nations. In the area of protection of human health from environmental harm, their 2014 index placed the United States 35th in health impacts, 36th in water and sanitation, and 38th in air quality. In the other area studied―protection of ecosystems―the United States ranked 32nd in water resources, 49th in climate and energy, 86th in biodiversity and habitat, 96th in fisheries, 107th in forests, and 109th in agriculture.
These and other areas of interest are dealt with by the Social Progress Index, which was developed by Michael Porter, an eminent professor of business (and Republican) at Harvard. According to Porter and his team, in 2014 the United States ranked 23rd in access to information and communications, 24th in nutrition and basic medical care, 31st in personal safety, 34th in water and sanitation, 39th in access to basic knowledge, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, and 70th in health and wellness.
Poverty, especially among children, remains a disgrace in one of the world's wealthiest nations. A 2013 report by the United Nations Children's Fund noted that, of the 35 economically advanced countries that had been studied, only Romania had a higher percentage of children living in poverty than did the United States.
Of course, the United States is not locked into these dismal rankings and the sad situation they reveal about the health, education, and welfare of its citizens. It could do much better if its vast wealth, resources, and technology were utilized differently than they are at present. Ultimately, it's a matter of priorities. When most U.S. government discretionary spending goes for war and preparations for war, it should come as no surprise that the United States emerges No. 1 among nations in the capacity for violence and falls far behind other nations in providing for the well-being of its people.
Americans might want to keep this in mind as their nation embarks upon yet another costly military crusade.
Lawrence S. Wittner (www.lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What's Going On at UAardvark?
US Capitalism Newsletter #22
History of Capitalism
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US Capitalism Today
Fulton, Swiss HSBC
Boing, Boing: Taibbi, The Divide
Resistance (but so is this all)
Venus Project Documentary Series
Public Citizen, Appeal to Pres. Obama
Naomi Klein, Capitalism vs.The Climate
Foster and Clark, “Crossing the River of Fire” Review of Klein
Dick, Klein’s Appeal for a Cooperative World Before Too Late
Ladha and Kirk, Capitalism Is Just One Story
Pilisuk and Rountree, The Hidden Structure of Violence
Give Us Alternatives in Affirmative Government: Post Office Banking