By Shamus Cooke
A Green New Deal is a fine demand, but ultimately the project is hopeless if it’s executed under a capitalist umbrella. Only a socialist Green New Deal can deliver a thorough transformation of society demanded by the situation, coordinating the vast wealth and technology of the country while inviting more nations into the project, since climate change is as global as capitalism.
The stakes are high. David Wallace-Wellss “The Uninhabitable Earth” is just one compilation of the scientific research showing how climate change is likely more catastrophic than previously thought, and happening much sooner. Capitalism has proved time and again its unwillingness to redirect its energies towards human needs; it knows only short-term investor profit.
A socialist Green New Deal will require a more democratic State, and a more democratic economy where the major polluters, banks, and other large corporations are made public utilities. Making a Green New Deal-sized economic pivot requires that the economy be coordinated to this goal, a mission impossible when the corporations are privately owned by profit-seekers, pulled in various directions by the dictates of the market and shareholders, who use their wealth to push policy makers in their respective directions.
The ruling class will unite around war but not around climate change, and ever since the New Deal war has become a baked-in, critical ingredient of U.S. capitalism that isn’t compatible with other ingredients, such as a Green New Deal. U.S. capitalism simply cannot afford both.
To ensure that the economy is democratically run, the current undemocratic State must be replaced by one that allows for direct input and decision-making, made easier than ever by the power of the internet, which could allow for frequent feedback or votes on important policies, as well as allowing quick recall of any representatives that step out of line. These common sense ideas are impossible under today’s capitalist-friendly State structure.
The working class first needs a political party of its own, as exists in most developed and semi-developed nations in the world. The Democratic Party teaches dependence on individual politicians who are themselves dependent on big corporations, while a Labor Party can teach the working class to be dependent only on itself. If Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders co-lead the creation of a Labor Party, millions of people would flock to their banner — but as of now they’re attracting people to the tattered and soiled banner of the Democratic Party.
Without learning the lessons from the failure of the New Deal era, socialists will be doomed to fall into similar traps laid by the super-rich to divert energy into the dead ends — in order to prevent a mass movement from actually threatening their power and wealth. Any movement that doesn’t directly confront their power and wealth will be undermined by it, and eventually destroyed. There is no shortcut around capitalism— and the parties that prop it up— if the goal is transformative change.
The Green New Deal can either be used to smash through corporate interests to usher in a socialist organization of society, or capitalists will exploit the Green New Deal to prevent socialism, clinging to the idea like a life raft — in the hopes that the result will be a series of modest, market-based reforms that serve to save capitalism at the expense of the climate and humanity.
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Shamus Cooke is a member of the Portland branch of Democratic Socialists of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This brief article has been excerpted from a much longer piece titled, “Will a Green New Deal Save the Climate, or Save Capitalism,” which was published on CounterPunch.org on May 8, 2019.