The leftist objectives of “woke capitalism,” a phenomenon which is intertwined with “socially responsible” investment (SRI) and has at its base, stakeholder capitalism, have obscured the way in which this combination works owes far more to fascism than to socialism. Nearly 90 years ago, Roger Shaw, a progressive writer, described the New Deal as “employing Fascist means to gain liberal ends.” Overwrought, perhaps, but not without some truth to it. He would recognize what is going on now for what it is.
When it was first published in German in 2017, Ulrich Brand’s and Markus Wissen’s book The Imperial Mode of Living attracted widespread attention and was discussed in mainstream media, while, at the same time, fueling an intense debate within the German academic left. The multiple reactions were not by chance; they were the result of the provocative and innovative nature of the book. The authors claim that the dominant mode of living in the Global North, to a large extent, depends on the exploitation of people and natural resources in the Global South. Or put differently, the fact that we (as inhabitants of the Global North) can enjoy a relatively comfortable standard of living is based on a long history of the depletion of nature and the preservation of poor working conditions in other parts of the world.
“The old Greek philosophers,” Frederick Engels wrote in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, “were all born natural dialecticians.”1 Nowhere was this more apparent than in ancient Greek medical thought, which was distinguished by its strong materialist and ecological basis. This dialectical, materialist, and ecological approach to epidemiology (from the ancient Greek epi, meaning on or upon, and demos, the people) was exemplified by the classic Hippocratic text Airs Waters Places (c. 400 BCE), which commenced:
Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly, should proceed thus: in the first place to consider the seasons of the year, and what effects each of them produces, for they are not all alike, but differ from themselves in regard to their changes.
According to the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, the definition of ‘War Crimes’ includes: “those violations of international humanitarian law (treaty or customary law) that incur individual criminal responsibility under international law. As a result…war crimes must always take place in the context of an armed conflict, either international or non-international.” Thus, we can establish that the violence unleashed each day in Gaza over the last two weeks constitutes Israeli war crimes. What remains even more clear, however, is that we aren’t receiving news about these on-ground realities from western media but from social media.
Following the hashtags, reading tweets, watching video clips and live updates from Palestinians caught up in the eye of this terrifying storm reminds us of the appalling western media bias andspreading of propaganda, the likes of which Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Propaganda minister would have been proud.
Lutz Ribbe, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee, shares his views on sustainability and community energy transformation
We live in turbulent but also remarkable times. The latter is because virtually any political demand currently being voiced is linked or supposed to be linked, with the COVID-19 crisis. And in this case, too, when I was asked to write this article, the idea was that, after all, COVID-19 should be a reason for stepping up efforts to bring about sustainability, renewable energies, energy efficiency and so on.
That is not the way I see it: the uncontested need to become more sustainable was already there when nobody could have envisaged this horrendous virus. In 1992, at the major UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted, in which governments agreed to make sure that greenhouse gas concentrations were stabilised to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (1).
It was the fourth week of June in 2020, and the middle of the second wave of the COVID pandemic in the U.S. Cases had passed 2.4 million; deaths from the novel coronavirus were closing in on 125,000. In his home office in Atlanta, Tom Chiller looked up from his e-mails and scrubbed his hands over his face and shaved head.
Chiller is a physician and an epidemiologist and, in normal times, a branch chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in charge of the section that monitors health threats from fungi such as molds and yeasts. He had put that specialty aside in March when the U.S. began to recognize the size of the threat from the new virus, when New York City went into lockdown and the CDC told almost all of its thousands of employees to work from home. Ever since, Chiller had been part of the public health agency’s frustrating, stymied effort against COVID. Its employees had been working with state health departments, keeping tabs on reports of cases and deaths and what jurisdictions needed to do to stay safe.
For over a decade Russia has been preparing for the dreaded four front war. How did it come to this? It wasn’t easy or preordained. It took a century of bad decisions, botched diplomacy and internal misrule to make it happen. It’s one of those Russian traditions that has evolved into a curse.
A century ago, Russia only feared war on one front, the one facing West. The Western Front was where Russia fought Germany and Austria-Hungary for three years during World War I, before conceding defeat. Russia was forced to ask for a peace deal because it turned out Russia had severe internal problems and another revolution. This was caused by the economic disruption and heavy casualties of the war. This was the second such crises of the 20th century and the primary demand was an end to the war, and the monarchy. Then things got worse as the second revolution escalated into a civil war that went on longer that Russian participation in World War I. The democratic government that won the first revolution and signed the peace treaty that got Russia out of the world war, then lost to a smaller radical socialist (communist) faction that brought back stricter and bloodier autocratic rule than the monarchy ever imposed.
Global politics today is a mess, and it can be tempting to turn to history for clues about how to clean it up, as Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan did recently in “The New Concert of Powers” (March 23). But one must be careful to learn the right lessons. Haass and Kupchan argue that the nineteenth-century Concert of Europe provides a model for managing great-power relations, avoiding major wars, and balancing an imbalanced world. These are worthy goals, but the Concert of Europe failed to achieve them—and so would any new organization inspired by it.
In 1815, Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, and the United Kingdom founded the concert to maintain their power and stabilize a continent roiled by wars and revolutionary uprisings. The concert is sometimes depicted as producing a golden age of diplomacy: a time when diplomats and statesmen fostered mutual respect, maintained a balance of power, avoided one another’s spheres of influence, and eschewed war in favor of joint sorties to the opera and late-night discussions over whiskey and cigars.
As the climate crisis worsens, the discussion intensifies over what role nuclear power should play in fighting it.
In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx, inspired by the German chemist Justus von Liebig, argued that capitalism’s relation to its natural environment was that of a robbery system, leading to an irreparable rift in the metabolism between humanity and nature. In the twenty-first century, these classical insights into capitalism’s degradation of the earth have become the basis of extraordinary advances in critical theory and practice associated with contemporary ecosocialism. In The Robbery of Nature, John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, working within this historical tradition, examine capitalism’s plundering of nature via commodity production, and how it has led to the current anthropogenic rift in the Earth System.
Departing from much previous scholarship, Foster and Clark adopt a materialist and dialectical approach, bridging the gap between social and environmental critiques of capitalism. The ecological crisis, they explain, extends beyond questions of traditional class struggle to a corporeal rift in the physical organization of living beings themselves, raising critical issues of social reproduction, racial capitalism, alienated speciesism, and ecological imperialism.