Environmentalism as a new state ideology

3 December, 2021

The shift from environmentalism to state ideology also means a transformation of science and its frameworks mediated by state policy objectives dictated by the needs of reviving capital accumulation.
The shift from environmentalism to state ideology also means a transformation of science and its frameworks mediated by state policy objectives dictated by the needs of reviving capital accumulation.

Environmentalism is beginning to be refined and distilled as a state ideology beyond the pressing need to impose the Green Deal. This trend goes beyond propaganda. It constrains scientific development and paves the way for a brutal acceleration of poverty imposed on the working class.

Table of Contents

Why is there so much emphasis on the supposed contradiction between Humanity and Nature?

Greenpeace project an image of the Earth as a bomb with a lit fuse onto European Commission.
Greenpeace project an image of the Earth as a bomb with a lit fuse onto European Commission.

The wild price hikes in electricity and gas are marking the first steps of the Green Deal and exposing its true nature as a mechanism for transferring income from labor to capital. Resistance has begun to show almost immediately and with it the concerns of the powers that be. In the EU for example, but also in the US government, the growing distance between workers and the new institutions of the Green Deal is being discussed with concern.

Even some elements of the ruling class are already pointing to the CO2 emissions payment system as the cause of an inflation they fear is politically destabilizing as they point out that the accelerating impoverishment of workers is backfiring on their own ability to place products on the market.

In this framework, it seems clear that the climate change discourse, as it has been hammered so far, is not enough to sustain a certain level of social approval or at least a general passivity towards the Green Deal, which is the big bet to resurrect the currently stalled accumulation.

That’s why the ideological apparatus – media, academia, etc.- is stepping on the accelerator to turn environmentalism into state ideology.

Read also: Climate Change exists and is a product of reactionary capitalism, the Green Deal is capital's non-solution

Wasn’t environmentalism supposedly “anti-capitalist”?

The idea of "fossil capitalism", a pro-capitalist argument of "radical environmentalism" that is now being recycled with the conversion of environmentalism into a new state ideology.
The idea of “fossil capitalism”, a pro-capitalist argument of “radical environmentalism” that is now being recycled with the conversion of environmentalism into a new state ideology.

The discourse of European environmentalism was born out of the evolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s of the student movements that articulated the first global revolt of the petty bourgeoisie after the World War. Its main message, which materialized and disseminated from the birth of Die Grünen (“the Greens”), was that the contradiction between capitalism and proletariat had been superseded by the contradiction between capitalism and Nature.

But beyond the rhetoric of the early years, by invisibilizing the class struggle and the historical decadence of the system, the destruction of Nature was no longer linked to the real social relations that articulate society. The door was left wide open to a “sacred union” with the ruling class in order to save the natural environment… and to the confusion, hardly innocent, between Humanity and capitalism.

When we are told, for example, that climate change is “anthropogenic” and that “human activity” is responsible for the environmental disaster, humanity and its needs are deliberately conflated with capitalism and the exploitative and predatory logic of capital accumulation. The consequences of capitalism on the natural environment are presented in a manner artificially separated from its consequences on the social environment.

As a result, the “guilt” of the species as a whole is insinuated, if not openly affirmed, leaving capitalism out of the picture and diluting its responsibility on the exploited themselves and their supposed “consumerist cravings”. It is the same cynical argument of the boss who “denounces” the “selfishness” of the workers when they claim their most basic needs, needs that in capitalism can only be satisfied as consumption, limited by the volume of the salary.

Environmentalism claims that it is this “selfishness” of the exploited, and not the rapacious logic of a capital whose growth is increasingly antagonistic to human development, that is “to blame” for climate change.

Thus, even in its supposedly “radical” variants, environmentalism from its origins will oscillate between agitation to promote a technological shift towards “renewables” within capitalism, and degrowth and genocidal malthusianism. It is obviously an ideology perfectly suitable for use as a state ideology, although the violence of its guilt-mongering approaches only makes it advisable at a time of acute crisis of capital… such as the present one.

Read also:
The "Environmentalism" entry in our dictionary and
Environmentalism, Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency and Andreas Malm

Is environtalism becoming state ideology really an important thing?

Deforestation becomes the model for the relationship between Humanity and Nature in environmentalism as a state ideology, but is it Humanity which deforests wildly or the profitability calculations of capital?
Deforestation becomes the model for the relationship between Humanity and Nature in environmentalism as a state ideology, but is it Humanity which deforests wildly or the profitability calculations of capital?

The shift from an ideology into a state ideology is not just a matter of the state and its political apparatus pounding out its messages in official and routine propaganda. Its aim is a change of culture at all levels establishing the acceptance of certain policies necessary to capital and considered strategic in the long term. It implies therefore revamping the whole ideological apparatus.

The problem is that the ideological apparatus of capitalism -and in general of all modes of production based on exploitation- is imbricated in the institutions and social forms of generating productive knowledge.

Thus, we can find these days articles in scientific journals asking whether the “Scientific Revolution” – one of the great historical achievements of the rising bourgeoisie of the 17th and 18th centuries – should not be “revised” and purged in order to borrow earlier religious and ideological principles that had been used by the previous ruling classes to contain the rise of the bourgeoisie in its youth.

Evidently, the mechanical conception of man, society and Nature that underlies the “Scientific Revolution” is a consubstantial part of bourgeois ideology. And, as we have previously recounted, it is also an active part of the contradictions that hold back the development of knowledge today. But returning to pre-capitalist conceptions as a consequence of the imposition of environmentalism as state ideology, far from “breaking the fetters”, can only make things worse… as is typical in the ideology of all decadent systems.

Read also: 
How to overcome the mechanical conception of human beings and society and
The limits to knowledge under class society

One of the materializations we are already seeing of this regression of knowledge is the constant fear of human action on the environment –that is, of work– and the consecration of a static conception of Nature. As in the decadence of the slave-owning society and feudalism, the messages become contradictory: the “death” of Nature is feared as much as “its revenge”. Millenarianism is combined with the guilt of the penitent and the anguish of the nihilist.

We’re not just talking about delusions like Extinction Rebellion, but about technical-scientific discourse. “The positive effects of invasive species,” we are told, “are not an argument for their acquittal.” The issue is conditioned in the media by its character as a metaphor for human migrations and has been radicalized by xenophobia and anti-migration policies, but the underlying “scientific” message is clear: the only desirable action on Nature is that which attempts to buttress its impossible conservation in its present form.

The implicit aim of the science that pretends to be in charge of comprehending in a global way the transformation of the environment turns out to be… “to stop the clock” of a Nature that has always been dynamic and of which the human being has always been a part and therefore has transformed in a dialectic of work and knowledge. Needless to say, this desire to “stop time” also appears in all the ideologies characteristic of the decadence of previous modes of production.

This defeatism, which is in reality nothing but another expression of the decadence of capitalism, already permeates the entire ideological framework. We can see it, for example, when the editor of Nature publishes in Scientific American an article defending that human extinction has already begun and that we are a species on a rapid path towards population collapse.

But in practice what does that mean for workers?

Energetic poverty will inevitably grow with "Fit for 55" and the development of the Green Deal.
Energetic poverty will inevitably grow with “Fit for 55” and the development of the Green Deal.

We are facing a change in the general discourse, endorsed by some scientists and promoted from sectors of the ruling classes who want to accelerate the Green Deal. The goal is to make it peremptory and generate acceptance, even passive or defeatist, in the face of the impoverishment that it means.

But ideological frameworks, especially once they become state ideology, as is happening with environmentalism, are not mere embellishments. They condition reality and the way in which they are imposed by the class interests that created them.

Example: the report on the pathways to “emissions neutrality” presented this week by the French state.

We are presented with four scenarios: “sanctified frugality” (poverty and more poverty for the vast majority of workers), “sobriety” (slightly less drastic than the previous one), a third scenario with reduction in basic protein consumption and heavy investment in agricultural production transformation and CO2 capture technologies, and finally, a “choice” of relative impoverishment through general price increases but no radical changes in consumption patterns, thanks to massive investment in capture technologies.

The report veers, not too subtly, toward “sanctified frugality,” i.e. mass poverty dressed up in change “in the ways we move, heat, eat, buy and use equipment”, solely because the system does not see itself as capable of producing CO2capture and storage technologies of sufficient scale to have an effect within the profitability parameters imposed by the capital invested in them.

Capital can only imagine its own survival at the cost of the radical and massive impoverishment of the class it exploits. The “sustainable world” of capital has nothing to offer but misery. In such a world, Libération tells us,

– Nature is enshrined,
– meat consumption is divided by three,
– agriculture becomes more extensive with few synthetic inputs [multiplying prices],
– energy renewal takes on an unprecedented scale [in tandem with price increases],
– the number of new constructions is drastically reduced with the transformation of empty homes and second homes as primary residences [further rising prices] and the average area of new single-family homes is reduced by 30%,
– half of all commuting occurs on foot or by bicycle [because alternatives, including public ones are too expensive],
– cars and airplanes are little used.

Measures that would thus make it possible in 2050 to halve global energy demand compared to that of 2015.

That is, capital’s self-awareness of the antagonism between universal human needs and its own profitability makes “inevitable” – within the system – the massive and brutal impoverishment of the workers… and the pure and simple destruction of Nature.

That is true. But the important expression in the formulation they themselves recognize is “within the system”. Beyond this system a whole world of freedom, abundance, and common metabolism with Nature opens up.


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