What can we learn from “Green Capitalism”?

                 What do we make of the fact that capitalists are currently putting some serious investment into alternative forms of energy – such as wind energy?   Is this simply a facade, or is there something positive in what is known as “green capitalism?”

Perhaps there is, or at least we should think seriously about the issue.  It is insufficient to take a negative approach that simply tries to expose the futility of any reform under capitalism.  Ultimately of course the futility is there, but it is the futility of capitalism itself, not the fight for reforms.  We don’t simply say that “bourgeois democracy is futile.”  Democracy itself is not futile; it cannot be fully realized under capitalism but that means it points beyond capitalism, not that it is simply an illusion to be disregarded.

I think something similar is true about “Green capitalism”.   Capitalism can never be truly “green”, but we can understand the “green” elements that are emerging  in the following way:

  • Socialism cannot be built on the same forces of production that are characteristic of capitalism – the polluting, fossil-fuel based form of industrialism.  In previous modes of production, a new mode of production meant not only a change in the relations of production but also in the forces of production.  For example, the change from feudalism to capitalism also was a change from agrarian-centered forces of production to industrial one
  • A major mistake of Marxism has been to ignore this, to somehow think that socialism could be built without a radical change in the forces of production which had existed under capitalism.  This of course is the crucial ecological issue.
  • However, new forces of production do not simply spring into existence at the time of the revolution; they do not come almost miraculously out of nowhere.   Again, there were localized forms of industry and trade under the domination of feudalism; these became nucleii for the emerging bourgeois mode of production.
  • Within the capitalist industrial mode of production, we can see the seeds of new forces of production – some inherently decentralized, renewable energy-based forces of production.  These emerge under the domination of capitalism, but they point beyond capitalism.  These are often called “Green capitalism” though this is a contradiction in terms.  Capitalism as such can never be “green.”  It is the task of revolutionaries to lead the people in seeking out and developing these new forms and forces of production. Thus it is not just a matter of proclaiming the futility of “green capitalism” or of highlighting ecological problems arising out of fossil-fuel and nuclear based industrial production, but of providing positive alternatives.  For many of these, the seeds of alternatives emerging in the old society are useful resources.