Review of Naomi Klein
Source Joseph Green
Date 14/11/22/23:24

Naomi Klein is not a theorist, but a talented writer who reflects the views
of a certain section of the movement. Her talk of challenging capitalism
reflects the mood and language of a section of the movement that wants to do
something militant and challenge various reactionary policies, rather than
being a description of an alternative to the capitalist system itself.

I wrote the following brief review of her book for the Detroit Workers' Voice
emailing list:

Re: Naomi Klein on capitalism vs. the climate

About "This changes everything"

Naomi Klein's new book, "This changes everything: capitalism vs. the
climate", deals with the climate disaster that is already beginning. It is a
vigorously written book, and its best sections discuss issues glossed over in
tamer presentations, such as the faults of the Big Green, the looming threat
of geo-engineering, and the failures of market solutions. Among the issues
taken up in the book:

* the environmental crisis isn't just another cause, but will increasingly be
connected with the whole range of economic and political problems facing us.
It will involve not just some minor tinkering with some items in government
budgets, but major social, economic, and political changes. It will require
the end of market fundamentalism and unregulated capitalism, a turn towards
regulation and planning, a reorientation of agriculture, changes in the
social and economic position of the masses, and different relations between
the developed and developing countries;

* the environmental cause must be connected to the struggle for welfare of
the masses, such as the provision of jobs;

* it denounces market solutions such as carbon trading, carbon offsets, and
carbon markets, and points to their insufficiency or even harmfulness. But,
unfortunately, Klein prettifies the carbon tax, and does not recognize it as
a market measure, no better than the rest of them;

* it castigates "Big Green" (the major bourgeois environmental groups) for
its connections to corporations including oil companies like BP, Chevron, and
Shell Oil. Big Green includes, among others, the Sierra Club, the Nature
Conservancy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife
Federation, and the World Resources Institute. One of the book's chapters is
entitled "The Disastrous Merger of Big Business and Big Green". This is a
merger that has even been institutionalized in coalitions such as the United
States Climate Action Partnership. Klein writes that "The big,
corporate-affiliated green groups don't deny the reality of climate change,
of course--many work hard to raise the alarm. And yet several of these groups
have consistently, and aggressively, pushed responses to climate change that
are the least burdensome, and often directly beneficial, to the largest
greenhouse gas emitters on the planet--even when the policies come at the
direct expense of communities fighting to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
... The 'market-based' climate solutions favored by so many large foundations
and adopted by many greens have provided an invaluable service to the fossil
fuel sector as a whole." (pp. 198, 199)

* it exposes the nature of the frightening geo-engineering solutions that are
being proposed: space mirrors; spaying seawater into the sky; alternatively,
spraying sulfate aerosols into the sky; fertilizing the ocean with iron;
covering deserts with vast white sheets; etc.

* it surveys the struggle and views of the more militant section of the
environmentalists. One chapter, for example, is "Blockadia: The New Climate
Warriors". Indeed Klein's book represents something of the consensus view of
many climate warriors, thus reflecting both the strengths and weaknesses of
their views.

Some of the book's weaknesses are that it evades such major questions as the
attitude the movement should take to the Democratic Party or to the trade
union bureaucrats; it doesn't really put forward a new plan for how to build
an effective movement separate from Big Green; while talking of challenging
capitalism, it dwells far too much on capitalism's bad philosophical ideas
rather than on what the alternative is; and it sometimes overlooks the
capitalist class, such as when it attributes Obama's betrayal of his
environmental promises to his ideological ideas, rather than to his being the
political leader of the bourgeoisie. Klein also seems to think that better
moral appeals will build the movement. And if she denounces the bourgeois
revulsion at overall planning, she nevertheless capitulates to the
fashionable reformist idea that decentralization is a panacea.

This book raises important issues that deserve a more detailed look, and I
hope to follow up with additional comments devoted to some of them.

Joseph Green, editor, "Communist Voice"

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