Occupy PN!

Letter by Lucy Lant, Bristol

ImageI was really confused by your latest editorial on the Occupy movement. Has PN become victim of Occupy’s growing contagion of ambivalence about capitalism? (Has the movement been infiltrated by the London Stock Exchange?)

In the second half of paragraph seven, the paper for nonviolent revolution expresses the expediency of reform over revolution: “we can only hope to modify dominant institutions. For the foreseeable future, immediate modification rather than immediate revolution must be the focus of our efforts – to ensure the survival of the species if nothing else”.

The rest of the editorial then seems to support the idea of revolution through the lenses of GDH Cole and Noam Chomsky, which makes the above statement even more bizarre.

But I would take it all a step further than this and point to the enormous blindspot of the Occupy movement (and maybe PN). We MUST overthrow global capitalism. It is irredeemable, because it is inherently flawed. It is a system of infinite economic growth on a finite planet. It takes living communities and, through labour exploitation, turns them into dead zones for profit. It’s like a cancer, no matter how much you ameliorate it; it will grow back unless it is eradicated entirely. If we put all our efforts on reforming it, we are wasting a historic opportunity for change. This would be a terrible mistake that, far from ensuring our survival, would wipe us out along with millions of other species on this planet.

In other words, capitalism is the social and economic system “industrial civilisation”, the most powerful and destructive civilisation ever to have existed since the rise of civilisations about 10,000 years ago.

We are currently losing life on earth at a rate of 200 species a day; the populations of fish, large mammals, amphibians, song birds and molluscs are collapsing; there is 10 times as much plastic in the oceans as there is phytoplankton (who generate oxygen for us to breathe and are a vital part of the food chain); 97% of the world’s native forests are gone; so are 98% of grasslands; and on and on.

We are witnessing a human generated sixth mass extinction. We are facing runaway climate change and we are losing our only home. We need to get a grip of what really matters and act accordingly! We need to stop global capitalism from turning what’s left of this amazing planet into a desolate wasteland.

Derek Jensen, the great environmental writer and activist has this to say about the Occupy Movement: “Our protest should not be about wanting a bigger slice of the current economic pie. It should be about dismantling the institutions of injustice that are destroying the Planet. No economic system is more important than the Planet”

In other words, if we destroy the planet, we destroy ourselves, and every social gain we have struggled for will have been made in vain.

Editor response: Thanks for your letter, Lucy. We entirely share your belief that capitalism must be replaced as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, an honest look at the movements that exist today in the west shows that we are far from being able to replace capitalism (which we do not see as identical with “industrial civilisation”). We are not even able to reverse the cuts and create, for example, a more humane benefits system, or return to the top tax rate we had under Thatcher (60%). Industrial democracy, or workers’ control of industry (which we believe to be critical to replacing capitalism) barely registers as an idea even in radical circles. Preparation for democratic control of the workplace is far from being a mass activity anywhere in the west.What is “the foreseeable future”? Maybe the next five to ten years. In that period, we could roll back the worst excesses, and perhaps institute major reforms that could educate, empower and embolden our movements.For example, if we were able somehow to force corporations to allow working people to elect their managers, instead of having them imposed from above, that would be a massive step forward. However, it would still only be a modification of capitalism. (Incidentally, the idea of workers electing managers was proposed 100 years ago by the South Wales Miners’ Federation.)As for survival, we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions within the next few years. If we were on the brink of revolution, then the most realistic strategy would be to push for revolution. Unfortunately, currently-existing capitalism, while in a period of self-doubt, is robust and is highly unlikely to be toppled in the next few years. So our anti-climate change strategies must involve using the state to curb corporate carbon criminals. – Eds 
Topics: Strategy