The left and climate catastrophe: a mere “alibi” for the rulers?

by Yorgos Mitralias

As Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis invokes – for the umpteenth time – the climate crisis as an alibi to mask his responsibility for the successive natural disasters that have struck Greece, and as the left, led by the “radical” left, denounces – also for the umpteenth time – this pretextual invocation, we know in advance the political landscape that will emerge from the ruins of the next “extreme meteorological phenomenon”: Mitsotakis will (re)invoke climate change and once again escape unscathed, since in his mouth, as in that of his opponents, this “climate change” is something like a… natural phenomenon, totally beyond the control of humans, who can do nothing about it. With the inevitable consequence that all that’s left for them to do is to suffer this climate change fatalistically, limiting the exchange of arguments and accusations to the usual …storm drains that aren’t cleaned up, infrastructures that aren’t maintained and the insensitivity of those in power, who don’t give a damn systematically about the poor hard-pressed people.

Of course, everything would be totally different, and Mitsotakis wouldn’t come out of this new natural disaster almost unscathed, if the left were to argue that the climate change Mitsotakis invokes not only doesn’t help him escape his responsibilities, but actually makes them terribly worse. Indeed, all the things he is already rightly accused of are mere misdemeanors, compared to the real crime he is committing when he not only does nothing about the climate crisis, but actually makes it worse through his policies. And all this in concert and full cooperation with its capitalist friends the world over! All those and their capitalist system who have created and continue to exacerbate the climate crisis, to the point where it is now the greatest threat the human race has faced in its entire history!

But even saying all this, an organization, a movement, a party would not be left-wing – let alone radical – if it did not back up its words with deeds, its own proposals with its critique, to demonstrate tangibly that its opposition to climate catastrophe is not an empty word without practical significance. For example – and this is just one of many basic duties – by openly advocating the immediate abandonment and prohibition of all hydrocarbon exploration in the country. And by fighting for this by mobilizing citizens, creating movements against fossil fuels or actively participating in those that already exist in Greece and around the world.

However, the most important thing – and so crucial for our future – that a left-wing collective should be doing today is of a different, qualitatively different nature: Convince at least a large part of the population, and in particular wage earners and the oppressed, that where we have reached – no longer a galloping climate catastrophe, but a climate catastrophe that is now running wild – even the most correct and radical measures proposed in 1990, 2010 or even… last year, are completely inadequate, outdated! From now on, the only realistic and effective response to the climate crisis “needs to be radical—that is, must deal with the roots of the problem: the capitalist system, its exploitative and extractivist dynamic, and its blind and obsessive pursuit of growth”(1), which implies that it is impossible to tackle the climate catastrophe without radically changing both the way we produce and the way we consume. In other words, there can be no salvation unless we radically change the way we live and organize human life as we have known it up to now. And this is true all over the world, but it does not absolve us from the task of starting from our own country !…

If we don’t do all this – that is, if we continue to ignore the climate findings and warnings of the IPCC and, above all, those of the international radical environmental movement, but also the increasingly nightmarish reality – then the consequences will be disastrous for the left itself and what little credibility it has left. First example (among many others): on what basis should the major flood prevention and protection works defended by the Left as a whole be planned, if the climate crisis and the relevant scientific studies (e.g. those of the IPCC) ] on its future evolution and intensity are not taken into account? If this climate crisis is merely Mitsotakis’ “alibi”, the logical conclusion should be that the design of these measures must be based on existing data and models – completely outdated and therefore completely useless – as, for example, the Greek CP has consistently proposed.

Second example: on the basis of what forecasts, if not those resulting from the scientific study of the climate crisis, should the anti-racist movement – and indeed the whole left – organize itself to prepare to face the very thorny question of the millions of North African “climate refugees” who will soon be crossing the Mediterranean, inevitably causing huge upheavals in the current political and social balances? Already, according to the UN, there are 884,000 survivors of the monstrous catastrophe caused by the Mediterranean hurricane Daniel in Libya, many of whom will naturally seek refuge on the European shores of the Mediterranean. That is, first and foremost in Greece, which, for those who haven’t yet figured it out, is located directly opposite Libya! And it’s clear that there will soon be just as many, if not more, “climate refugees”, including Greek citizens from Thessaly, which has been hit very hard by the same Hurricane Daniel (more than 830 mm of rain in 48 hours and more than 1085 mm in three days), because we now know that not only the frequency, but also the intensity of so-called “extreme climatic events” is increasing sharply. And that’s without taking into account the longer-term destructive effects of the climate crisis, such as desertification, which is already progressing in Greece, particularly in eastern Crete and the eastern Peloponnese…

As we do not forget the immediate – and perhaps more prosaic and understandable – consequences of the current situation, we must note that the big winner in this – constantly repeated – story is Mitsotakis and his ilk. And why? Because he will continue not to pay the price for his (enormous) sins, both at the ballot box and in the reputation of the masses. And above all, because he will continue to do nothing about the galloping climate crisis, which promises us even greater and more frequent disasters of all kinds. Or worse still, because it will continue to do everything it can to make it worse! And without being seriously harassed by almost anyone, because almost everyone in this country, including most left-wing organizations and parties, either declare themselves ardent defenders of fossil fuels, or remain ostensibly silent, conveniently avoiding taking positions that might pose a problem for them, or they admit the existence of the climate crisis, but refrain from participating in the global movements fighting it, and defend tooth and nail “our” oil deposits, which are still nowhere to be found, or, finally, they go so far as to denounce the climate crisis as being …. “imperialism’s greatest fraud”.

If there’s a problem, we shouldn’t look for it on the side of Mitsotakis and his friends, who are only doing their job as capitalists in a coherent way, but rather on the side of the Greek left, which isn’t doing its job. A Greek left that doesn’t take as its example not only the radical ecological movements of the “rich North” that it loathes, but also those of “los pobres de la tierra”, as are most of the millions of members of the international peasant movement Via Campesina (2). A Greek left that remains silent, pretends not to understand, neglects the fight against climate catastrophe or even goes so far as to say – at least some of its components – exactly the same thing as the most extreme capitalist reaction, the fossil fuel multinationals and their various far-right political representatives. In short, it is deserting the fight against the greatest, most urgent and most immediate existential problem currently facing workers, the poor and oppressed peoples the world over – that is, humanity itself!

With time running out and time lost now measured in decades, the Greek left must realize that it is virtually impossible for it to believe it can survive without offering a comprehensive, clear, credible and tangible response to the tsunami of climate catastrophe now affecting every “detail” of people’s daily lives. That is, without offering a program and, at the same time, a vision of the organization and objectives of our societies that are alternatives to the current capitalist model, the very one that has brought humanity to the brink of catastrophe.

So, whether it likes it or not, the Greek left will soon be forced by events to take part in the international debate on the content of this “alternative program and vision”. And, of course, to position itself in the face of the historically important alternative proposal of the manifesto “For an ecosocialist degrowth” (1) by Michael Lowy, Giorgos Kallis, Bengi Akbulut and Sabrina Fernandes, from which the following extract closes this text:

« Ecosocialist degrowth is one such alternative, in direct confrontation with capitalism and growth. Ecosocialist degrowth requires the social appropriation of the main means of (re)production and a democratic, participatory, ecological planning. The main decisions on the priorities of production and consumption will be decided by people themselves, in order to satisfy real social needs while respecting the ecological limits of the planet. This means that people, at various scales, exercise direct power in democratically determining what is to be produced, how, and how much; how to remunerate different kinds of productive and reproductive activities that sustain us and the planet. Ensuring equitable well-being for all does not require economic growth but rather radically changing how we organize the economy and distribute social wealth ».


1. See the manifesto that marked the meeting of ecosocialism and degrowth, the two anti-capitalist currents of radical ecology : https://monthlyreview.org/

2. https://www.eurovia.org/press-

Translated from Greek

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