Sunday, December 18, 2005

After Montreal A View From the Past

The Montreal Climate Change Conference is over. In a certain sense it is the completion of a cycle that began in Montreal over a decade ago. The Original Rio Conference on the Environment which led to the Kyoto Accord, and this Kyoto 2 conference was the brain child of Canadian Maurice Strong.

He was and is a significant mover and shaker in both Montreal and Ottawa, Strong was head of the Power Corporation, and he was the original conference chair for Rio. It was appropriate that it ended in Mr. Strongs home province from whence it began. Mr. Strong pushed the environmental issue for business purposes, his is the environmentalism of the Hydro business, which includes the promotion of clean energy from nuclear power. And as a former head of Power Corp he was well connected with the Liberal Party. One of the reasons that Kyoto has been pushed by the Liberals is Strong.

It was also appropriate that given the current situation of crisis in the UN, that Mr. Strong was absent from the conference since he has been linked to the UN Food for Oil scandal in Iraq.

Mr. Strong's many accomplishments as a member of the Canadian ruling class are too detailed to go into here now, but he represents the rising ruling class of Trudeau Liberals in Quebec who foreswore seperatism for integration in the corridors of power, and in so doing strengthened both the Quebec and Canadian State in the 20th Century.

But the Climate Conference in Montreal, led to nothing new, Kyoto 2 is business as usual. The US didn't asign on, no big deal, they are still developing their own asymetrical approach to climate change. Capitalism can adjust to increased production and sharing of green credits, of carbon sinks, of new adapatable technologies, of capitalist business offering alternative green energy like wind power, (the wind power associations of Canada say No Government hand outs Please, we are businessmen).

Has the revolutionary potential of the ecology movement come and gone, despite the stuffed bears, and dancing flowers in the mass protests in the streets of Montreal outside the confernce, the tear gas did not choke or gag these protestors. Theirs was the quiet concern of millions of us, about our future. They were well behaved as were the police and the State. It was all very serious. Very scientific, very political.

But what has changed since Rio, since Kyoto 1? Capitalism has adapted. Has it come to the self recognition that its continued existance threatens our very home world? I think not.

For capitalism is us, and we have yet to put the wrench in the wheels that drive the marketplace. And this goes beyond the liberal ideology that we need to consume less. The very fact is that the contradiction of advanced capitalism is that it now is holding back a technology and productive capacity to provide abundance for all, because it is chanelling production into profit.

And in doing so it has failed to recognize the use value of recycling, reusing, and reduction. Instead we are producing more and more throw away items. The revolutionary idea of ecology so prevelant in the 1970's is not the Green Party or green conciousness, never was, never will be. Join the Audboun Society if you want that.

Nope as Murray Bookchin has pointed out Radical Ecology is part and parcel of the Anarchist understanding of the crisis of advanced capitalism. His works on Social Ecology and the Limits of the City were breakthrough works that have yet to be matched by many modern writers, for their far flung critique.

Several other European Leftists such as Andre Gorz also noted the signifigance and importance of an ecological critique of political economy for the Left. His most poular essay online is; Social Ideology of the Motorcar

But one of the Leftists to predate both Gorz and Bookchin was Pierre Cardin, one of many psuedonyms for Cornelius Castoriadis one of founders of the French ultra-left groups Socialism or Barbarism, which in England was known as Solidarity. They have published numerous works during the sixties that were staples for Left Wing Anarchist reading.

Notes From the Underground

Mr. Castoriadis's life combined high intellectual seriousness with intense political infighting. When he arrived in France from Greece in 1945, at the age of 23, he had already translated the work of Max Weber into Greek. He was also a veteran of the Trotskyist movement, which both the fascists and the communists were seeking to "liquidate," to use their polite term for "exterminate."

In 1948 Mr. Castoriadis found work at what would later become known as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, while also leading a small post-Trotskyist group called "Socialism or Barbarism," which published a journal by the same name. (Thus, Mr. Castoriadis was conducting statistical analyses of capitalism while preparing at night and on weekends to overthrow it.) "S. ou B.," as its comrades called it, never had more than a hundred members. It published a newspaper, Workers' Power, that circulated in some factories, but much of the group's energy was devoted to theoretical debates. As Mr. Castoriadis grew critical of Marxism itself, for example, he was opposed within the organization by a young philosophy professor named Jean-François Lyotard. (Ironically, Mr. Lyotard would later become prominent as a postmodernist who rejected Marx's "grand narrative" of history.)

The group's impact on radical students and activists around the world was disproportionate to its size. And its influence continued to grow even after S. ou B. dissolved in 1965. In the late 1970s, it became fashionable in some circles to claim to have once been a member. It was a development that amused Mr. Castoriadis. "If all these people had been with us at the time," he said, "we would have taken power in France sometime around 1957."

Emerging from the political underground, Mr. Castoriadis became a psychoanalyst, and also began teaching a seminar on philosophy at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, in Paris. He published numerous books reflecting an encyclopedic range of interests and an unblinking skepticism toward the "generalized conformism" of contemporary society. After decades of denouncing the Soviet Union as a monstrosity, he never became enthusiastic about the existing Western order. At a 1997 conference organized in Prague by President Václav Havel of the Czech Republic and the writer Elie Wiesel, Mr. Castoriadis described capitalism's "expectation of an unlimited expansion of material so-called well-being" as "obviously the most absurd of all Utopias ever formulated by the most sanguine Utopians." He also urged the adoption of a "new type of human life ... a frugal life, as the only means to avoid ecological catastrophe and a definitive zombification of human beings, endlessly masturbating in front of their television screens."

When he died at the end of that same year, Mr. Castoriadis left an apartment filled with manuscripts, including an enormous mass of lectures from his seminars on philosophical and psychoanalytic topics -- material indispensable to understanding his thinking on the question of human creativity. He left a widow, two daughters, and a network of comrades and admirers around the world.

Castoradis work included the following interview. It comes from a massive if somewhat controversial work online, THE RISING TIDE OF INSIGNIFICANCY

I originally had looked at copying some quotes from it as I felt that it was as relevant today, as when it was done back in 1993, perhaps moreso in light of the failure or success of the Montreal Conference, depending of course if you think anything actually occured there.

Instead I beleive it is time for us to reassess the NGO/Green/Animal Rights/ movements that claim to be anarchist, because they engage in Direct Action to meet their reformist ends. Castoradis makes many a cogent point especially about Green Politics, which looked far more radical then than now, in light of the Red Tory's that run Canada's Green Party.

One point I believe he is incorrect on, but that has been a common misinterpretation, is that Marx and Engels were anti-environmental pro productionist apologists. This I believe has been significantly challenged of late by John Bellamy Foster in the pages of Monthly Review and has been the focus of one of his recent books. While Castoradis denounced the expansive production of capitalism, I believe that Bookchin hit on the head when he announced the politics of post scarcity anarchism. But that is another debate for another time, as Homes said to Watson about the Giant Rat of Sumatra.

So here is some food for thought, and as usual I look forward to a spirited debate and your comments. Footnotes are at the end. Because of its length I have posted off site here:

Interview With Cornelius Castoradis (Pierre Cardin)

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