Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 8, 2015

Naomi Klein, Jodi Dean and the debate over “Green Keynesianism”

Filed under: economics,Global Warming,Green Party,revolutionary organizing — louisproyect @ 6:40 pm

this changes everything

Despite its obvious intention to challenge the corporate-dominated status quo, some Marxists fault Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” for supposedly straddling two opposing and mutually exclusive systems: capitalism and socialism. For every criticism, there has been a defense of “This Changes Everything” from other Marxists, including those who have had long-standing affinities with the critics–thus demonstrating that deep divisions do not have to stand in the way of a unified movement. As such, the debate is a reminder that as long as our primary focus is on challenging capitalist rule, there is no reason why we cannot air out our differences in the public arena without the schisms that have harmed out movement in the past.

In a December 30, 2014 Jacobin article, Sam Gindin praises Klein for attacking capitalism as the source of climate change but faults her for leaving too much “wriggle room” for capitalist reform. By hammering away at “villains” such as the Koch brothers et al, the left can effectively let the system off the hook. While Gindin does not identify her as a Keynesian—the term that is widely identified with the leftwing policy studies base of the Democratic Party—he leaves the impression that she is not much different than Bill McKibben. When he writes that “It is one thing to ask how we can organize ourselves better to register our dissatisfaction and to pressure or lobby corporations and states to modify some of their ways within capitalism”, it is clearly a warning that Klein’s agenda is one of capitalist reform.

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  1. Cross posted from the North Star:

    “Capitalism and private property are at the heart of the environmental destruction of the planet. Ultimately, they will have to be substantially modified, if not eliminated, for our survival. But it is difficult for people in the world of the G-20 to hear this and accept it. So, in this respect, Klein is pointing the way towards a future confrontation through her critique, even if she will not acknowledge it directly. While I am no fan of Klein, as I believe that she uses her brand to benefit from the work of others, she is attempting to create expectations of radical change that, if they become widespread, can lead towards an egalitarian, sustainable society. There is also the possibility that the conflict will erupt along North/South class lines, with people in the South who will be most adversely affected from global warming challenging the property rights and privileges of people in the North. If so, Klein is undermining North unanimity centered around the preservation of these rights and privileges.”

    Comment by Richard Estes — April 9, 2015 @ 3:47 am

  2. I think Klein in her own mind is more getting at planning versus the market or a combination of both rather than capitalism or socialism. This seems to be a common mistake.

    From this perspective I think she is correct to say the exact formula still needs working out and will only be worked out once the working class take political power.

    Klein doesn’t really couch things in class terms, more the people versus (99% versus the 1% etc).

    I guess that sort of usage reflects the time we live in.

    I personally think democracy is no trivial thing, we should be making the argument that only a classless society can bring about true democracy and under a system of class rule it can only ever be compromised and in the worst cases severely abused.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — April 9, 2015 @ 4:28 pm

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