Friday, 22 July 2011

Is Green Growth possible?

by David

Two articles recently linked to on the UNITY Facebook page are worth reading. One is Sue Bradford’s criticism of the new “Pure Advantage” green marketing campaign and the government’s Green Growth paper: “Greed is good, as long as it's green”.

 The other was Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz’s article “The Ideological Crisis of Western Capitalism”.

Both agree that free market “neo-liberal” capitalism has no answers to the crises we face, Stiglitz calls for state intervention in the economy to reduce inequality and encourage growth, while Bradford argues that even so-called “green growth” will make the ecological crisis worse.

The contradiction between these two articles raise important questions for eco-socialists, especially those advocating some form of Green New Deal.

[The New Deal being the policies of state intervention in the economy and public works that US president F D Roosevelt attempted to end the Great Depression of the 1930s.]

These differences aren’t surprising. Despite the title of his article, Stiglitz isn’t an anti-capitalist. Like the state interventionists who dominated economic thinking in the wake of the Great Depression, Stiglitz aims to protect capitalism from itself, with regulation aimed at making it fairer and more stable.

Bradford on the other hand is an anti-capitalist and an eco-socialist, who knows that capitalism needs constant growth and that this is just not sustainable on a finite planet.

But if growth is not the answer, where does this leave proposals for a Green New Deal (or at least the more progressive versions of it), that aim to create jobs and redistribute wealth through state investment in sustainable infrastructure?

Some of the philosophical issues surrounding this question are debated in the article “Green New Deal: Dead end or pathway beyond capitalism?” from the Turbulance website.

Unfortunately I’m not sure the article, which is a debate between two activists has a clear answer to this question.

Part of the answer may lie in another question: what would a just and sustainable society look like? And how can we get there? If we can answer those questions, we can evaluate whether the idea of a Green New Deal likely to help.

I would say one of the ways a Green New Deal (or some of the policies that might be included in it) could help us is that they have the potential to rally broad coalitions around positive and achievable demands that make every day life better for people, while reducing ecological damage. In other words as well as achieving something worthwhile they can help build a movement that can fight for further change.

However, it may be best to avoid the Green New Deal tag. After all, the original New Deal in 1930s USA not only failed to end the Great Depression in that country (that required World War Two), it also led thousands of socialist and trade union activists into working for the pro-capitalist and racist Democratic Party, and ultimately helped saved capitalism from more radical change.

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