Robert Meeropol

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"Robby & Elli" 1968

Robby speaking at the re-launch of the Mary Pitawanakwat Fund in Toronto

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Coalition Blues

January 28, 2016

Tags: Coalition building, Green Capitalism

Despite all the post-Paris conference self-congratulation, the world’s nations adopted environmental plans that are inadequate, inequitable and unenforceable. If we’re going to solve the over-arching problem of climate change, it will most likely take an international, grassroots-based coalition of unprecedented size to push governments to act in time.

But such coalitions tend to be unwieldy, weak on demands and easily co-opted. The Alliance for Global Justice recently reposted a blog that provides a summary of the problems facing the exploding, but amorphous, “climate movement” in the US and Western Europe. They write:
“It is easy to focus our ire and ridicule on those we call ‘climate deniers’. But the worst climate change deniers are not the ones who say it is not happening, but the ones who recognize the problem but refuse to confront its most basic sources and causes. They are the ones who marginalize and ultimately suppress the voices of those proffering radical solutions and expressing urgency commensurate with the times …. They reject the demands of the Global South saying there is no unity. They put their faith in a quest for new technologies rather than fighting for a new system. They reject calling out the destructive nature of capitalism, saying we need a movement that cuts across class lines. And they treat those who speak about Empire as anachronistic visitors from another age.”

I agree with that statement and have previously written in this blog that the climate change movement must beware of green capitalist allies. “They are frienemies; in the guise of saving us they will make things worse.” Why do I risk attacking potential allies for making the problem worse at a time when building the broadest possible coalition is essential?

Because green capitalist solutions seduce even green-oriented progressives into thinking that we can reverse the coming climate chaos and ecological collapse by mounting a green New Deal that will provide tens of millions of well-paying jobs creating technological breakthroughs, and sustainable infrastructure, energy sources, transportation and housing while continuing our comfortable consumption-oriented life style. This is counterproductive in at least two ways.

First, while everyone deserves a well-paying job, in our system companies will advertise effectively to get these new job-holders to spend their new-found money on their products. This will cause an ecologically destructive orgy of consumption even if those products are made more efficiently. Second, it distracts people from focusing on the root cause of the problem: capitalism’s elevation of competition and its Grow-or-Die imperative. We can’t attack this global problem as long as countries and individuals compete to secure the most resources and accumulate as much wealth as possible. We need worldwide cooperation and social egalitarianism; these can never occur within the capitalist framework.

Since our current circumstances require the broadest coalition possible, we must distinguish between the more powerful promoters of green capitalism and the well-intentioned individuals who grasp at the straws it provides. Our job is to debunk the schemes of the former and persuade, not attack, the latter. The tightrope between fragmentation and co-optation is treacherous, but the only way to get to the other side is to traverse it successfully.

Selected Works

"Bravery is rare. Tyranny is commonplace. Both define the life of Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his heart-wrenching, honest memoir, Meeropol recounts the emotional terrors of his childhood, the kindness of Abel and Anne Meeropol-who adopted him and his older brother after their parents' execution-his struggle to vindicate his parents, and his own political activism, culminating in the creation of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which he now directs."
Publisher's Weekly
"one of those rare books everyone should read"
–Joyce Carol Oates

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