A Lively Debate:
A Report about I.P.’s Discussion Meeting in Paris October 20, 2007

The theme selected for this meeting was the denunciation of the “green” turn being undertaken by capitalism today. That subject is closely linked to the editorial in this number of IP.

Everyone present was in agreement with respect to the environmental destruction caused by capitalism. The problem is very real and constitutes a direct attack on the living conditions of the human population of the planet, seriously mortgaging the future of humanity, and representing a significant problem for the capitalist mode of production itself. Capital cannot ignore the danger, and the quest for other ways to produce will open new markets for the economic system, which will be grabbed by the most technologically and scientifically advanced economies. That will accentuate the domination of the most developed countries, and in particular the US.

Confronted by such an environmental degradation, the question of what perspectives are available must be posed. How can we envisage a new society that will be heir to such a liability? Two theses were put forward in the discussion to account for this environmental destruction. For some, it is the product of natural causes, that is to say, unprecedented demographic expansion, to which must be linked urbanization and the development of the productive forces, which account for that demographic explosion. That is a vision that pits the growth of humanity against the reality of the limits imposed by the planet. For others, such an analysis harks back to the positions advanced by Thomas Malthus, whereas for them it is primarily the capitalist socio-economic organization that creates this profound contradiction between humankind and nature. For those who hold this latter position, man is a product of nature. The contradiction is not born from his existence, but rather from the type of social development that conditions his links with nature.

How can we envisage the creation of a new society on the bases of such an objective situation? Is communism a “simple” reorganization of growth? Or, on the contrary, must it take into account that heritage of destruction and put in question that very growth and the development of the productive forces? Some comrades, defending that second vision, spoke of a “relative scarcity” or “decrease” [décroissance] to characterize the birth of a new society.

What was clear to all the participants was the necessity to re-think the problem of the link between growth and the environment. Few texts exist in the literature of communism. But, for certain comrades, Marxism, in presenting communism as the end of scarcity, the development of the productive forces, and progress in the service of man and human needs, provides the basis for a mistaken vision of unlimited growth, which is the vision that capitalism has of its very own development. A heated debate took place, confronting the defenders of a Marxist perspective – for whom Marxism is a necessary tool to “think” the world and to forge a revolutionary perspective, a body of non-monolithic ideas that cannot be taken as a dogmatic and completed set of ideas – and those who had a critical perspective on the way in which Marxism envisages communism. From that confrontation, three questions arose: What are we talking about when we speak of “human needs” that will be satisfied by a new society; can there exist a harmonious relationship between the humankind of the future and nature; how can we restore the link between utopian theories and the vision of communism?

Internationalist Perspective

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