It is imperative to reconstruct the Internationale of workers and peoples

By Samir Amin


For the last thirty years the world system has undergone an extreme centralization of power in all its dimensions, local and international, economic and military, social and cultural.

Some thousand giant corporations and some hundreds of financial institutions that have formed cartels among themselves, have reduced national and globalized production systems to the status of sub-contractors. In this way the financial oligarchies appropriate a growing share of the profits from labour and from companies that have been transformed into rent producers for their exclusive benefit.

Having domesticated the main right-wing and left-wing parties the unions and the organizations of the so-called civil society, these oligarchies now also exercise absolute political power as well as the media that is subordinated to them, creating the necessary disinformation to depoliticize public opinion. The oligarchies have annihilated the traditional practice of multi-partyism, replacing it almost to a one-party system, controlled by capital. Representative democracy having lost all its meaning, has lost its legitimacy.

This late contemporary capitalism, which is a completely closed system, corresponds to the criteria of ‘totalitarianism’, although care is taken not to name it as such. The totalitarianism is still ‘soft’ but it is always ready to resort to extreme violence as soon as the victims – the majority of workers and peoples – begin to revolt. All changes that are part of this so-called ‘modernization’ must be seen in light of the foregoing analysis. This is thus the case of major ecological challenges (especially climate change) that capitalism is incapable of resolving (the Paris agreement of December 2016 was only a smokescreen), as well as scientific progress and technological innovations (including IT), which are rigorously subjected to the requirements of the financial profit that they can make for the monopolies. The glorification of competitiveness and the freedom of the market that the subservient media present as guarantees of the freedom and efficiency of civil society are indeed the antithesis of the reality, which is riven by violent conflicts between fractions of the existing oligarchies and is the cause for the destructive effects of their governance.

At the world level, contemporary capitalism always follows the same imperialist logic that was typical as it became globalized from the start (the colonization of the 19th century was clearly a form of globalization). Contemporary ‘globalization’ does not escape this logic: it is nothing else but a new form of imperialist globalization. This term ‘globalization’, so often used without any definition, hides an important fact: the deployment of systematic strategies that have been developed by the historical imperialist powers (United States, Western and Central European countries, Japan, which I shall call ‘the Triad’) that continue to pillage the resources of the Global South and the super-exploitation of its labour that is associated with delocalization and subcontracting. These powers intend to maintain their ‘historical privilege’ and to prevent all the other nations from extricating themselves from the status of dominated peripheries. The history of the last century was in fact that of the revolt of the peoples of the peripheries of the world system who were engaged in a socialist de-linking or in attenuated forms of national liberation, whose page has, for the moment, been turned. The re-colonization now under way, which has no legitimacy, is therefore fragile.

For this reason, the historical imperialist powers of the Triad have set up a system of collective military control over the planet, directed by the United States. Membership of NATO, which is inextricably linked to the construction of Europe, as also the militarization of Japan, reflects the requirement of this new collective imperialism which has taken over the national imperialisms (of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, France and a few others) which were formerly in permanent and violent conflict.
In these conditions, constructing an international front of workers and the peoples of the whole world has to be the main objective of the struggle to meet the challenge of counteracting the spreading of contemporary imperialist capitalism.

Confronted by this tremendous challenge, the inadequacy of the struggles being carried out by the victims of the system is all too apparent. Their weaknesses are of different kinds which I would classify under the following headings:

i. the extreme fragmentation of the struggles, whether at the local or world level, which are always specific and conducted in particular places and subject-matters (ecology, women’s rights, social services, community demands, etc.) The rare campaigns conducted at the national or even world level have not had any significant success in that they have not forced any changes of the policies being carried out by those in power. Many of these struggles have been absorbed by the system and foster the illusion that it is possible to reform it.

Nevertheless, there has been an enormous acceleration in the process of generalized proletarianization. Almost all the populations in the central capitalist countries are now subjected to the status of waged workers selling their labour. The industrialization of regions in the Global South has created worker proletariats and salaried middle classes while their peasantries are now fully integrated into the market system. But the political strategies employed by the powerful have succeeded in fragmenting this gigantic proletariat into diverse fractions that are often in conflict with each other. This contradiction must be overcome.

ii. The peoples of the Triad (USA, Western and Central Europe, Japan) have renounced international anti-imperialist solidarity, which has been replaced at best by ‘humanitarian’ campaigns and ‘aid’ programmes that are controlled by the capital of the monopolies. The European political forces that inherited left-wing traditions thus now support the imperialist vision of existing globalization.

iii. A new right-wing ideology has gained support among the people. In the North, the central theme of anti-capitalist class struggle has been abandoned, or reduced to a greatly incomplete expression – for the benefit of a so-called new definition of the left-wing ‘partner culture’ or communitarianism, separating the defence of specific rights from the general fight against capitalism.

In certain countries of the South, the tradition of struggles that associated the anti-imperialist struggle with social progress has given way to reactionary backward-looking illusions expressed by religions or pseudo ethics. In other countries of the South, the successful acceleration of economic growth over the last decades feeds the illusion that it is possible to construct a ‘developed’ national capitalism capable of imposing its active participation in shaping globalization.

The power of the oligarchies of contemporary imperialism seems to be indestructible, in the countries of the Triad and even at the world level (“the end of history”!). Public opinion subscribes to its disguise as ‘market democracy’, preferring it to its past adversary – socialism – which is invariably embellished by such odious sobriquets as criminal, nationalist or totalitarian autocracies.

However, this system is not viable for many reasons:
i. Contemporary capitalism is presented as being ‘open’ to criticism and reform, as innovative and flexible. Some voices claim to put an end to the abuses of its uncontrolled finance and the permanent austerity policies that accompany it – and thus ‘save capitalism’. But such calls will remain in vain as present practices serve the interests of the oligarchs of the Triad – the only ones that count – as they guarantee the continual increase of wealth in spite of the economic stagnation that besets their countries.

ii. The European sub-system is an integral part of imperial globalization. It was conceived in a reactionary spirit, that was anti-socialist and pro-imperialist, subordinate to the military command of the United States. Within it, Germany exercises its hegemony, particularly in the framework of the euro zone and over Eastern Europe which has been annexed just as Latin America has been annexed by the United States. ‘German Europe’ serves the nationalist interests of the German oligarchy, which are expressed with arrogance, as we saw in the Greek crisis. This Europe is not viable and its implosion has already started.

iii. The stagnation of growth in the countries of the Triad contrasts with the acceleration in growth of regions in the South which have been able to profit from globalization. It has been concluded too hastily that capitalism is alive and well, even if its centre of gravity is moving from the old countries of Atlantic West to the South, particularly Asia. In actual fact the obstacles to pursuing this historical corrective movement are likely to become increasingly violent, including military aggression. The imperial powers do not intend to allow any country of the periphery – great or small – to free themselves from domination.

iv. The ecological devastation that is necessarily associated with capitalist expansion is reinforcing the reasons why this system is not viable.

We are now in the phase of the ‘autumn of capitalism’ without this being strengthened by the emergence of ‘the people’s spring’ and a socialist perspective. The possibility of substantial progressive reforms of capitalism in its current stage is only an illusion. There is no alternative other than that enabled by a renewal of the international radical left, capable of carrying out – and not just imagining – socialist advances. It is necessary to end crisis-ridden capitalism rather than try to end the crisis of capitalism.
Based on a first hypothesis, nothing decisive will affect the attachment of the peoples of the Triad to their imperialist option, especially in Europe. The victims of the system will remain incapable of conceiving their way out of the paths that have been traced by the ‘European project’ which has to be deconstructed before it can then be reconstructed with another vision. The experiences of Syriza, Podemos and France Insoumise, the hesitations of Die Linke and others testify to the extent and complexity of the challenge. The facile accusation of ‘nationalism’ of those critical of Europe does not hold water. The European project is increasingly visible as being that of the bourgeois nationalism of Germany. There is no alternative in Europe, as elsewhere, to the setting up of national, popular and democratic projects (not bourgeois, indeed anti-bourgeois) that will begin the delinking from imperialist globalization. It is necessary to deconstruct the extreme centralization of wealth and the power that is associated with the system.
According to this hypothesis, the most probable outcome will be a remake of the 20th century: advances made exclusively in some of the peripheries of the system. But these advances will remain fragile, as have those of the past, and for the same reason – the permanent warfare waged against them by the imperialist power centres, the success of which is greatly due to their own limits and deviations. Whereas the hypothesis of a worker and people’s internationalism opens up the way to further evolutions that are necessary and possible.
The first of these ways is that of the ‘decadence of civilization’. In that case, these evolutions are not to be masterminded by anyone, their trail must be blazed only by the needs created by the situation. However, in our epoch, given the power of ecological and military destruction and the disposition of the powerful to use it, the risk, denounced by Marx in his time, that there is a very real risk that the fighting will destroy all the camps that oppose each other. The second path, by contrast, will require the lucid and organized intervention of the international front of the workers and the peoples.

Creating a new Internationale of workers and peoples must be the main objective for the genuine militants who are convinced of the odious nature of the world imperialist capitalist system that we have at present. It is a heavy responsibility and the task requires several years before giving any tangible results. As for myself, I put forward the following proposals:

i. The aim should be to establish an Organization (the new Internationale) and not just a ‘movement’. This involves moving beyond the concept of a discussion forum. It also involves analysing the inadequacies of the notion, still prevalent, that the ‘movements’ claim to be horizontal and are hostile to so-called vertical organizations on the pretext that the latter are by their very nature anti-democratic: that the organization is, in fact, the result of action which by itself generates ‘leaders’. The latter can aspire to dominate, even manipulate the movements. But it is also possible to avoid this danger through appropriate statutes. This should be discussed.

ii. The experience of the worker Internationales should be seriously studied, even if they belong to the past. This should be done, not in order to ‘choose’ a model among them, but to invent the most suitable form for contemporary conditions.

iii. Such an invitation should be addressed to a good number of combative parties and organizations. A committee should first be set up to get the project started.


The Kick Off

By Mamdouh Habashi




Samir Amin’s publication of his “founding” paper on 17/7/17 was a historic event in every sense of the word. Not only because it summarizes the situation on the front of the struggle between imperialism and the forces of revolution at the global level with a high degree of precision and clarity, but because it launches a new phase in this struggle qualitatively different from all that preceded it.

Since the idea of ​​the establishment of the Fifth International began to crystallize about a decade ago and my insistence on Samir Amin is increasing day by day to complete this paper, until the urgency in recent years reached the degree of a nerve saw. Samir Amin, always a perfectionist in his work, was not hesitant in his conviction of the idea itself but about the timing of its emergence.

For the first time in history, the forces of the global revolution begin to take the lead in their struggle against imperialism, armed with the experience and lessons of the history of former “Internationals”, moving from reaction to action, from defense to attack, … no exaggeration in this description.

The task is difficult, … difficult, complicated and complex, but it has no alternative for the real revolutionary forces. We are talking here about the “process” of building the Fifth International, which may take years. For this process to begin with steady and constant steps, it must have a “motor” or a steering committee.

This committee will be formed from 10 to 15 parties of those which are the first convinced of the task. It would ​​start with a preparatory meeting to launch the first “Brain Storming” among the attendees to consolidate:


  1. the points of agreement and disagreement, but more importantly
  2. the expected problems and obstacles of the process.


A) the points of agreement and disagreement

 Do the participants of this very first meeting have to discuss the a.m. paper of Samir Amin first to find out all points of agreement or possibly disagreement of its analysis of our today’s world?

 Would it be preferable for the process to have a preamble of the paper presenting a profile of the former Internationals with their successes and failures without losing the original goal of the process?

 The process should eliminate the opportunistic currents in the left – in the north and in the south – which still do not want to see imperialism in the policies of Europe and Japan and limit imperialism in the United States, not to mention the forces that do not see the existence of imperialism at all.

 After the political analysis of the current situation in the world of today on the paper, a road map to establish the 5th International has to be presented, at least for the first steps of putting the foundation; i.e. when, how, where and with whom the first meeting with the required BRAIN SRORMING will be held.

 The oligarchy of financial market capitalism and political oligopolies rule the world of today with a totalitarian dictatorship which is getting deeper and deeper. The new international is the most accurate expression that this crisis an L- and not U-shape one.

 The unwillingness or ability of the ruling bourgeoisie of the peripheries in general to have any degree of independence.

 The BRICS Group pursues pragmatic opportunistic policies that do not live up to the challenge, as they resist hegemony but not capitalism, not even its neoliberal form.

 The deepening of the crisis of global capitalism does not mean that it is nearing its demise, as much as it means the intensification of its violence and aggression.

 Due to its internal contradictions, the global financial system will face a new collapse in the coming years. The next collapse may be more severe than that of September 2008. The global left must prepare itself to confront this situation with the new International to put forward a global alternative and chart a roadmap out of capitalism rather than out of the Crisis of capitalism. The missing of an “International” in 2008 has led to a decline in the performance of the global left in facing the crisis instead of getting the most benefit out of it.

 The great popular uprisings in the peripheries (Egypt is a clear example) are going back to what is worse. If the 5th International did exist and had been active and effective in January 2011, it would have changed the course of history.

 The left of the centers is in general lagging behind both, in its strength and in its discourse to face the globalization of the financial market.

 The differences between the attitudes and tactics of the left forces in the world vary deeply despite the high degree of agreement on understanding and analyzing the global situation.

 I do not see a moment more urgent than today to begin thinking about the creation of the new “International”.

The mission is certainly tough but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step and all the projects that have changed the world have started as dreams.


B) the expected problems and obstacles of the process

  • The differences between left-wing currents in the world will continue, but we must use them as enrichment and deepen the dialogue rather than fight it, if there is a solid basis for agreement on the strategic issues.
  • Of course, the new International will not replace the local struggles, but it will definitely give it the compass and the necessary political support, which may increase the efficiency of these local and regional struggles.
  • Collective imperialism has globalized its command since the middle of the twentieth century, while the forces of progress have abandoned this basic weapon.
  • The World Social Forum WSF was an attempt to globalize the struggle, but despite all the successes it has achieved the struggle today needs something much more effective and structured.
  • The relationship between the national and the international must be addressed and treated from a revolutionary perspective.
  • What is the role of the “revolutionary” party today in the peripheries and – especially – in the centers? And how this party would carry out its goals under the conditions of the Western “parliamentarism”?
  • The New International is the only way to universalize and globalize the struggle for the “Common Good of Humanity” as a first step towards a socialist perspective, otherwise it would be just wishful thinking.
  • In this concern, I have to emphasize that we are talking here about establishing an “ORGANIZATION” and not any kind of forum or discussion collectives.
  • I believe that the basic or most difficult task of the process “Kick Off” is not primarily to prove the utmost necessity of establishing the International but to answer the unavoidable questions how to manage the organization in the new circumstances… such as:
  • What is the most appropriate organizational form between the “Forum” and the “Com-Intern”?
  • Should it include Marxist parties only? Or also other kinds of organizations? How do we define selection criteria?
  • How do we deal with the presence of more than one Marxist party in a country?
  • How will decisions be taken, by consensus? unanimous? Or by voting?
  • How will it solve the problem of the political “weight” of the different parties, organizations or countries? Will it be the same voice for each party; the Socialist Popular Alliance in Egypt and the Communist Party of China, for example?
  • The previous question leads us to the need to invent a mechanism to avoid the domination of a country or a party on the International… How?



Dear Comrades and Friends,

This is my appeal to you all to contribute. We all need your active suggestions and innovative ideas to start the process. Please feel free to contact me, even with negative your critiques, which could be also quite constructive.


The Endgame of Carbon Capitalism Confronts The Living Hope of the Many

By Vishwas Satgar

In the contemporary carbon centric life world of capitalism, gas guzzling automobiles, hi-tech aeroplanes, massive container ships and energy using skyscrapers are some of the obvious weapons of mass destruction. The more these resource intensive and carbon centric social relations prevail the more climate change is accelerated. In this version of senile capitalism nature is conquered. The new capitalist nature – under patriarchal domestication, scientifically observed and managed – has to be geo-engineered, carbon must be stored in the deep recesses of planet earth and oil spigots will only be shut when the last dollar is extracted from this deadly resource. The logic of contemporary capitalism, is not merely about dispossession, but about eco-cide, that is, obliterating the conditions necessary to sustain human and non-human life on planet earth. For Karl Marx, this was the metabolic rift of capitalism and for Rosa Luxemburg the conquest of the natural economy.

Neoliberalism has realised its terminus in history and confirmed its ideals. Property rights have spawned the sovereignty of capital, greedy plutocrats wield state power with the crudest of instrumentality and hyper individualism valorised through Americanised consumption and populist media spheres confirm the banality of celebrity culture as common sense. The self determination of the Americanised and nihilistic capitalist subject is the only expression of being human in contemporary capitalist civilisation, authorised by neoliberalism. But even this is not enough. The next step is the trans-human; the technotopian vision of bio and digital capital. Capitalism no longer has common cause with humanity. Married to decades of structural inequality this is the world of neoliberal capitalist utopia. There a no enemies: Soviet socialism is dead, the working class is precariatised, nature is conquered and history has ended. There are literally no left bogeys to blame. Yet a new right wing, neo-fascist, progeny of this neoliberal order has already started its march – from Washington, Brazilia, New Delhi, Budapest to Moscow – it stands at the ready to brutally crush any challenge to this utopia. Moreover, it misdirects publics against scapegoats – the migrant, black lives, the ‘Muslim’ , the indigenous or any over inflated ‘terror threat’.

Capitalism’s endgame has arrived. It will seek to defend the normalcy of capitalism at any cost. However, history and struggle have demonstrated how unsustainable militarised regimes are. The monopoly on violence is never a guarantor of pacification let alone global acquiesce. War also requires scarce resources and is costly. Militarism also in the age of nuclear weapons also comes with its constraints. In addition, mediatised and thin market democracies, openly buttressed by coercion, also face limits. Ultimately, hegemonic governance of brutish inequality is over, while the demos is restless and desperate. At the same time, the democratic subject has a full spectrum gaze, informed by multiple digital information sources and insights. Information about the socio-ecological condition is everywhere and can be accessed. Such a subject can even marvel at the idiocy of imperial power from afar, observe the clumsiness of autocrats and catch glimpses of inspiring assertions of subaltern street power. Put differently, while capitalism will utilise the neo-fascist option, and will even weaponise the digital sphere, this iron curtain of absolute oppression is not free from weaknesses. It is at this intersection, the history of democracy and socialism will thrive.
However, the real terror of the present moment in history is not even capitalist neo-fascism. It is the juggernaut of capitalist eco-cide that threatens not just planetary life conditions but capitalism itself. This makes the second coming of fascism anachronistic. Put more sharply, neo-fascism will also burn in a heating world and carbon capital’s ‘global gas chamber’. It is bone chilling to learn how carbon capital is prolonging its place in the global energy mix despite the alarm bells of climate science and at least one major climate shock every week on planet earth. The prospects of over shoot beyond a 1 degree increase in planetary temperature since before the industrial revolution looms large. Trump has given warrant to more carbon extraction in the US placing it at the top of supply tables and Bolsonaro supports commercial interests that are continuing genocidal violence against indigenous peoples, destroying bio diversity and hastening the release of about 140 billion tons of carbon from the Amazon through slash and burn appropriation. In South Africa carbon ruling classes are continuing to build the largest coal fired powered station in the world, they vaunt fracking and salivate at the prospects of off-shore gas extraction. This is a short list of carbon criminality but which confirms capitalism and its carbon ruling classes threaten everything including themselves. This means even reformist inclinations to manage carbon capitalism or green it are bound to fail, given the dooms day clock.

Given the science of climate change and accelerating carbon emissions, the death of capitalism and all of us by its eco-cidal logic is now patently clear. Africa, the imperial subject of the global north since the Berlin conference is defeated, captured by lumpen bourgeoise interests and is already unravelling in parts due to climate shocks. It is estimated that at least 200 million Africans will be displaced by worsening climate shocks and breakdown. ‘Fortress Europe’ or ‘Prison Complex USA’ will not be able to keep the ‘barbarians’ out because these societies, despite their affluence, will also be facing serious internal fault-lines due to climate shocks. The Sunrise movement, Extinction Rebellion and #FridaysForFuture are merely 1 degree Celsius movements. At 1.5 degrees many more will rise in these societies and will certainly reject being treated as collateral damage by irrational and eco-fascist ruling classes.
Three forms of climate justice disruption, expressing the living hope of the many, is being expressed in national spaces in this new phase of climate justice struggle. Such expressions of living hope are bringing about a convergence of climate justice forces that have been in existence for about 20 years, together with children and citizens. First, symbolic disruption of normalcy. The best example of this is Greta Thunburg and the #FridaysForFuture childrens protest actions. The alarm bell raised by the children is reinforcing the urgency coming through in the climate science and vice versa. Second, tactical disruption through gridlocking carbon including fossil fuel extractive circuits. Calls to boycott Macdonalds, Walmart and Subway because they have interests in slash and burn agriculture in the Amazon or Ende Gelände efforts to blockade coal pits in Germany are all crucial examples in this regard. Third, strategic disruption of eco-cidal capitalism through exits and ruptures through systemic alternatives such as Green New Deals that advance rapid decarbonisation, demilitarisation, democratic systemic reform from below, enabling peoples power to drive the just transition, and a geopolitics of climate justice. In this regard Bernie Sanders Green New Deal, committing $16.3 trillion, is certainly not the classical class compromise of capital and labour but a class project of the excluded 99% against the avaricious and eco-cidal 1%.

Ultimately, these forces will also have the task of confronting the eco-cidal logic of imperial power to ensure the global south can makes its own climate justice choices, including for deep systemic change that advances democratic eco-socialism. On September 20, the day of #GlobalClimateStrike, climate justice forces gathered outside the corporate headquarters of the 45th highest carbon polluter in the world, SASOL, in South Africa. Besides demanding a just transition plan from SASOL so South Africa can achieve its net zero emissions targets and democratise climate policy from below, these forces called for a national and international day of action on 1st May, 2020 to #gridlockcarbon on a global scale. This is about uniting children, citizens, climate justice forces and most importantly trade unions. The power of the organised working class, with all its weaknesses, has to be mainstreamed in climate justice struggles everywhere to advance strategic breakthroughs.

Moreover, a crucial democratic systemic reform, that will have to be further globalised from the periphery is the ‘re-agrarianisation’ of the world through food sovereignty and agro-ecology. Initiated by La Via Campesina, over two decades ago, every community, village, town and city, on a planetary scale will have to embrace such a democratic eco-socialist alternative. This has been under-scored by the recent International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Biodiversity report (2019) and the International Panel on Climate Change Land Use report (2019). The bottom line is that mono-industrial, carbon centric and globalised food systems are implicated in our extinction.
Ultimately, the ecological horizons of contemporary socialism will be defined by global heating, climate shocks, worsening inequality and the human impulse to live. Water, food, land, forests, oceans and the biosphere – the global commons – are all going to be implicated in the revenge of nature against capitalist eco-cide. The raw power of nature will eclipse even anthropocentric notions of hybridising capitalism’s nature with the web of life. The infinity of nature and the finitude of the human will define the next period of socio-ecological history. It is at this confluence that democratic eco-socialism will learn more deeply from indigenous earth traditions to advance life, reject productivism and affirm a de-alienated relationship with nature. A slow world, operating within the metabolic cycles of nature, is our only hope for the many. Such a world never died but was merely pushed into the shadows by colonial, neoliberal and imperial violence.

African Climate Justice: Articulations and Activism

By Mithika Mwenda and Patrick Bond

Among several million climate protesters during the global Climate Strike of September 20, 2019 were thousands of Africans. Among two dozen African cities hosting protests, the youthful activists marched in Nairobi, Kenya, in Kampala, Uganda, in Dakar, Senegal, and in South Africa’s Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban (Gdelt 2019). The latter country, by far Africa’s most carbon-intensive, included protests against government and the major polluter Sasol, and began to unite South Africa’s powerful but fragmented traditions of environmental justice activism. To understand the trajectory, in which until recently, the necessity of climate justice advocacy was foiled by a disarticulation between mainstream “climate action” and radical grassroots campaigning, requires a return to the point a decade earlier when vocal Africans made the case that the North was preparing Africa for a climate “holocaust”: Copenhagen’s 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC-COP15).

The word holocaust was used by a leading African negotiator, Lumumba Di-Aping, in December 2009 after the leaders of the United States, Brazil, South Africa, India and China conspired to sabotage existing UN process in a small side-room. The Copenhagen Accord was adopted outside the parameters of the main negotiations; hence this “league of super-polluters blew up the United Nations,” according to Bill McKibben (2009) of Emissions-reduction targets agreed upon by Barack Obama (US), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Jacob Zuma (South Africa), Manhohan Singh (India) and Wen Jiabao (China) – and then foisted onto the rest of the conference – were weak: no more than what will bring a catastrophic 3-degree Celsius (or more) increase in temperature by 2100. Moreover, there were no binding provisions, thus denuding the 1997 Kyoto Protocol of its main merit: a semblance of accountability and nominal enforceability (Vidal and Watts 2009).

However, it was also at this summit that, from the floor ten days earlier, a spontaneous protest occurred. Impatient with the leaders’ negotiations, more than one hundred members and supporters of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (Pacja) temporarily disrupted the formal event, addressing a rally at a makeshift podium at Copenhagen’s Bella Centre. The attention of hundreds of media and conference participants was grabbed with a chant: “Two Degrees is Suicide: One Africa, One Degree!” Proclaiming, “No to Climate Colonialism, No to Climate Genocide!,” the Pacja activists not only demanded much greater emissions cuts from the gathered leaders, but also offered a scathing critique of the continent’s most visible official representative, Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi, who had unilaterally reduced earlier African demands for the Global North’s annual climate debt payments to the Global South from $400 billion to just $10 billion (Klein 2009, Bond 2012a).

The Pacja protest immediately followed a frank input to a strategy session of Africans by Di-Aping, the Sudanese diplomat who was formally the leader of the G77+China delegation. As he briefed Pacja and other civil society gropus, Di-Aping “sat silently, tears rolling down his face,” according to a report (Welz 2009). “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact,” he said, explaining that in his home region, it was “better to stand and cry than to walk away.” For much of the continent, said Di-Aping, 2 degrees Celsius globally meant 3.5 degrees C: “certain death for Africa”, a type of “climate fascism” imposed on Africa by polluters, in exchange for which the Third World was promised fast track funding. But this funding promise was merely a carrot dangled to vulnerable countries as a compromise, a trick which worked to break the solidarity of the G77+China group.

Di-Aping was already posing an unprecedented threat to the rich counties’ stranglehold on the UNFCCC. Their initial offer of an annual $10 billion “was not enough to buy us coffins” (Welz 2009). Di-Aping argued that the Copenhagen deal on offer was “worse than no deal… I would rather die with my dignity than sign a deal that will channel my people into a furnace.” As for the US president, Di-Aping was furious: “What is Obama going to tell his daughters? That their [Kenyan] relatives’ lives are not worth anything? It is unfortunate that after 500 years-plus of interaction with the West we are still considered ‘disposables’” (Welz 2009).

Di-Aping’s critiques were also, according to a witness, aimed inward: “Many African negotiating delegations were unprepared and some members were either lazy or had been ‘bought off’ by the industrialised nations. He singled out South Africa, saying that some members of that delegation had actively sought to disrupt the unity of the bloc” (Welz 2009). Di-Aping was roundly attacked by both Pretoria’s and the North’s negotiators for his rhetoric, and was not allowed to return to the UNFCCC negotiations. Yet his critique resonated, and at the same time, anti-apartheid South African Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (2009) wrote to the UNFCCC leadership, “We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale… A global goal of about 2 degrees C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development.”

Two years later, the 2011 UNFCCC summit was held in Africa, but even worse power relations prevailed, as the host South Africa played into the hands of the U.S. State Department. In Durban, instead of a major demonstration inside, Pacja – having brought three busloads of activists from as faraway as Uganda – was outside marching with the main climate justice protest movement. But even that protest of 10,000 was watered down, because of collaboration with more conservative groups like the World Wildlife Fund (Bond 2012b).

The inability to emphasise either rapid action or climate justice meant that in 2015, the major emitters – the US, Europe, China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan – agreed on new ways to undermine global climate governance in Paris. For example, not only was the voluntary character of the Copenhagen Accord reaffirmed, there was no accountability mechanism nor attempt to punish those countries which backslid. When in June 2017, just over four months after taking power, U.S. president Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the largest historic emitter from the deal, there was no punishment, notwithstanding calls across the spectrum (from Naomi Klein to Joseph Stiglitz to Nicolas Sarkozy) for anti-US sanctions or a “border adjustment tax” (Bond 2019b).

Together with its fundamentally voluntary character, another fatal flaw in the Paris Climate Agreement is that the costs of climate-related “Loss and Damage” from climate change are being disproportionately borne by Africans and others who did the least to cause the problems. Thanks to a Paris provision, they have no recourse to claiming “climate debt” and polluter liability in lawsuits (Bond 2016). The Agreement also reintroduced the unworkable carbon trading gimmick, which failed miserably over the prior fifteen years, through the back door. Moreover, Paris negotiators neglected to include several major categories of emitters, especially militaries, air transport and shipping. There was no attempt to penalise fossil fuel companies, incentivise their Just Transition to post-carbon energy supply, nor even rhetorically endorse the need to leave fossil fuels underground. No progress was made to enhance African acquisition of climate-friendly technologies that have long been protected by Intellectual Property. And the negotiators back-slapped each other for this awful deal so loudly that critical activists’ objections simply could not be heard (Bond 2016). Against the euphoria of Paris, Pacja and a few other climate justice movements (e.g. Friends of the Earth International) provided lonely defiance at the COP21 media centre, denouncing the Paris Climate Agreement as another historic multilateral deceit.

At the 2018 UNFCCC summit in Katowice, Poland, implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement included requests for countries to formally submit “transparency reports” about their emissions as well as analysing the Loss and Damage they were experiencing. But there are still no payment provisions, since the dysfunctional Green Climate Fund did not gather even five percent of its $100 billion per year objective by 2020, as Obama had promised when selling the Copenhagen Accord to those who were skeptical.


Contesting climate justice

Nevertheless, there are some climate activists – mainly associated with the global Climate Action Network (CAN) – who resignedly consider Paris a first step in the right direction. In contrast, climate justice activists generally agree with climate scientist James Hansen, who called the deal “bullshit” (Milman 2015). Instead of constantly comparing to the low bar of Paris, many activists believe it is much more appropriate for Africans to heap scorn on the Paris Climate Agreement. One reason for doing so is to ensure that a future group of much more serious international negotiators will not continue these fatal mistakes. Another is that those who aim to drag their feet on emissions cuts, or avoid any climate debt liability, enthusiastically promote Paris. Thus, to legitimise the deal only encourages current and future elites to continue along this path, removing the urgency to make the substantial emissions cuts required, and slowing the necessary reconstruction of economies and societies in a manner consistent with survival and justice.

But while there is climate action paralysis from above, there are exciting new forms of climate justice movement-building from below, many of which can be found in Africa, including within Pacja. Even the fragmented South African sites of struggle provide a degree of optimism for future unification once they impose much more substantial pressure on the carbon-addicted government of Cyril Ramaphosa, himself a former coal tycoon. Although Pacja defends its participation in UNFCCC and mainstream intergovernmental processes as a strategy to fight from within – so as to entrench climate justice narratives within both official and African civil society discourse – there is also a hybrid strategy based on building a mass movement from below. Struggles are being waged by Indigenous communities and local people in various African locations, especially where carbon-intensive, high-pollution extractive activities are taking place.

This mirrors climate justice activism internationally, where the most spectacular new post-Paris movements barely register the UNFCCC as a relevant force. Instead, they are committed to direct actions that block high-CO2 activities and corporate polluters, e.g. Ende Gelände in Germany, Extinction Rebellion in Britain, and the US Sunrise Movement, as well as the Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock. .

Meanwhile, the younger generation is already explaining to their elders why UN deal-makers and other high-carbon elites should stand aside. “I want you to panic,” Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg (2019a) insisted at the Davos World Economic Forum in early 2019: “Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t.” Addressing the UN Climate Summit in September 2019, Thunberg (2019b) was even more furious: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”

This new development is overdue: a universal inter-generational rage, from which the youth can legitimately warn the older elites that Climate Strikes will join other forces for justice, telling us quite correctly and ever more loudly, “You’re stealing our future!” But as the most militant of climate activists begin to explore the two-decade old set of climate justice principles, analyses, strategies, tactics and alliances, a new problem arises: co-optation of the language of climate justice, without adherence to the politics. One example can be found in the way scholars have mainly ignored the single most formative site of popular, bottom-up articulation of climate justice: the April 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba. (The citations for that conference since 2010 number just 657, as opposed to 16,100 for “climate justice.”) Another was the attempt to conjoin climate justice with schemes for carbon trading and offsets, as we see below.

Pacja rises

Founded in 2008 in Johannesburg during a meeting of Africa’s environmental ministers, Pacja initially emerged in part thanks to the prodding and financial support of a continental organisation often considered to have a neoliberal orientation: the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Bond 2005). A second founding organisation is also sometimes accused of using Africans, especially in civil society, for its own ends: Oxfam International (Bond, Brutus and Setshedi 2005, Ogunlesi 2013). Nevertheless, the network immediately developed an independent leadership team capable of fundraising without fear of state or international NGO manipulation.[i]

Another network of funders and supporters associated with the World Council of Churches – with Britain’s Christian Aid, Germany’s Diakonia, Finn Church Aid and Norwegian Church Aid prominent – gave support, followed by the Swedish International Development Agency and United Nations Environment Programme. Some Global North partners harbor expectations that the Global South’s desperate civil society groups will follow an ideological and programming agenda consistent with that of funders (Wrong Kind of Green 2019). The most controversial of Pacja’s partners were Mary Robinson’s Foundation for Climate Justice (based at Trinity College in Dublin) and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, for the reason that both insisted on pursuing market-oriented strategies – carbon trading and offsets – that were not working in Africa (CCS and Dartmouth 2012).

The entire terrain of global climate governance is riddled with “climate action” strategies of this sort, even if in some cases the word justice is invoked. And yet some of the most constructive networking was done in partnership with ClimDev Africa, a program of the African Development Bank (one of the main fossil financiers), Africa Union Commission and UN Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA). Personalities sometimes play an outsized role, such as that of UN ECA African Climate Policy Center director James Murombedzi, a Zimbabwean rural development scholar and experienced manager within the UN. He continually presses his agency to be cognizant of politics and especially justice. This perspective allows Pacja a great many opportunities, including the logistical support required to regularly assemble its members, e.g. within ClimDev or annual meetings of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, without losing its orientation to climate justice, not merely climate action.

As for Pacja’s own membership and their local orientation, Todd Beer and Mwenda (2016) surveyed more than 1,000 members from forty-five African countries in 2015. They included environmentalists, climate specialists, religious denominations, NGOs and CBOs, trusts and foundations, and farmers and pastoralists’ groups. Youth movements also began to join up. According to Pacja (2019), there is wide diversity in approaches, but in common, “over three-quarters of them indicate that the communities they work with have already been negatively impacted by climate change either a great deal or quite a lot.” A quarter of the members have a base in rural areas, but two-thirds are engaged in agriculture and food security and sixty percent address deforestation. Nearly half of the members are engaged in national-level advocacy, and another seventeen percent work at the global scale.

There were certainly forces operating in Africa aiming to co-opt Pacja’s (2019) policy and practical framings, e.g. “pro-poor development,” “human rights,” and “a global environment free from the threat of climate change with sustainable development, equity and justice for all.” Such language has become quite common in what are otherwise status quo institutions, captured in the idea of “talk left, walk right.” However, the difficulty these institutions faced in assimilating Pacja into the conventional climate action and eco-modernisation camps reflected the organisation’s commitments to values such as gender responsiveness and inclusiveness, professionalism, fairness and justice, and participatory democracy (Pacja 2019).

In Andre Gorz’s (1967) Strategy for Labour terminology, the climate advocacy scene is dominated by those arguing for “reformist reforms,” as opposed to the climate justice movement’s “non-reformist reforms.” In the former category, dominant reformist strategies generally accept and legitimise status quo institutional forms, endorse market mechanisms, and neglect to incorporate analysis highlighting class, race, gender, generation and geographical power relations. To illustrate the latter, the climate justice movement would typically make non-reformist demands upon their own local governments and the national negotiators who were involved in climate negotiations, if such reforms weaken the corporate power structure and continue its delegitimisation, and in the process empower activists to demand further-reaching changes.

The strength of Pacja’s advocacy is in part based on hostility to the high-emissions countries and corporations. When it comes to cutting emissions sufficiently for the world to remain below 1.5 degrees Celcius, Pacja’s member poll found trust in the European Union to be only thirty-one percent, in China, twenty percent and in the US, seventeen percent, during Obama’s presidency (Beer and Mwenda 2016). Also of interest are Pacja members’ views on the Third Worldist developmental debate with the North, especially over whether the Southern countries should use their own high-carbon activities – e.g. fossil fuel extraction – to “develop.” More than seventy-one percent disagree that “fossil fuels should be a primary avenue for development,” and fifty-nine percent “disagree that their nations should develop any fossil fuel resources discovered within their borders.”

One crucial question still to be fleshed out, however, is whether Pacja and its members will advocate for financial compensation to the communities and countries which do restrict their current and future fossil fuel extraction. One precedent is the demand made by Ecuadoran eco-feminist and Indigenous activists to forego extraction of $10 billion worth of oil discovered in the Yasuní National Park (the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspot, within the Amazon forest). The demand for the oil to be left “under the soil” was to be in exchange for the North’s climate debt downpayment of $3.6 billion to the Ecuadoran people, via grant-based social policy financing (Bond 2012a). Although the strategy was sabotaged by the German government in 2013, following which Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa permitted Chinese and Ecuadoran oil firms to begin drilling, “Yasunidos” advocacy continues (Leave Fossil Fuels Underground, 2018).

Another indication of Pacja members’ ideology is the extent to which members “believe that a radical shift away from capitalism is the best way to address climate change,” as Beer and Mwenda (2016) posed the question: “Over three quarters (77.7 percent) of respondents supported this position compared to less than a quarter (22.3 percent) who reported that global warming is best addressed within a system of capitalism.”

However, in spite of some encouraging signs, the harsh reality is that the vast majority of African citizens have been apathetic, and the upper-income elites – especially in South Africa – live in conditions akin to the richest First World habitats. These men (and a few women) occupy the commanding heights of fossilised power, where profits and new oil and gas discoveries are too sweet to kick their addictions – unless those promoting climate justice politics became much better organised, and brave enough for the conflagrations that inevitably lie ahead.


[i] By way of disclosure, the chapter’s first author was involved in leadership of Pacja from the outset; and the second author has served as a volunteer advisor to Pacja on a few occasions.

The First Ecosocialist International: A documentary pre history.

By Quincy Saul

In 2001, the first “Ecosocialist was written by Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy, inspired by the planetary convergence of anti capitalist movements for social and ecological justice. In the second paragraph, they prefigured the path ahead:
“Innumerable points of resistance arise spontaneously across the chaotic ecumene of global capital. Many are immanently ecosocialist in content. How can these be gathered? Can we envision an “ecosocialist international?” Can the spectre be brought into being?”
In the first two decades of the 21st century, spectre has become spirit has become substance- the First Ecosocialist International ha s been convoked and constituted, and is now traversing a global route of struggle. This path ahead is what concerns us the most. But as Pearl Buck said, “if you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.”
What follows then is a chronicle of how we have come this far; a pre history in primary sources of the path that led to the Ecosocialist International. These are unusual documents; written not by a handful of spokespeople, but collectively crafted and ratified in smaller groups and larger assemblies, in groups ranging from a couple dozen people (first document) to about 40 people (second document) to over 100 people (final document). They are testament to the sophisticated political pedagogy of the grassroots revolutionary process in Venezuela. Only excerpts of these documents are reproduced here readers are encouraged to follow the links to the full texts. In addition to inviting the scrutiny and solidarity of participants in this forum, I humbly and
audaciously hope that these seeds may flourish in the fertile soils of Azania.

1. From “The Calling of the Spirits” 2015:
“Every year in a small village in the state of Lara in Venezuela, the Guardians of the Seeds converge. Last year this movement was able to lead the construction and approval of an anti GMO and anti patent Seed Law. This year, the hosts are offering a space…. for a “Calling of the Spirits” …they invite you to form part of a pluricosmovisionary commission, which will begin the design of a collective process of preparation to arrive at the First Ecosocialist International….”

From the everyday transformative actions of ecosocialist collectives, organizations and social movements, from spirited minds and from seeds planted in our hearts, the idea has emerged: To envision the Convocation of the First Ecosocialist International in Venezuela, Abya Yala. To specify and coordinate our anti capitalist and anti
patriarchal practices, and from their encounter to think and feel a new revolutionary ethic…..

We don’t aspire to unite academics who are not tied to socioeconomic and political mobilizations, but rather the militants from ecosocialist organizations and movements. And we come together not to beg or to denounce, but to articulate our struggles i n a Common Plan of Action, based on the concrete tasks of political, economic, social and ecological struggle in daily life….

We don’t believe that we or anyone alone can define the fundamental questions that will prefigure the soul of the First Ecosocialist International. For this reason, we are inviting organizations and movements, who believe like us in this dream, and walk the path of the word to attain it: to decide upon and send a spokesperson to accompany us…. to establish the parameters, and then t o spread the good news of the convocation around the world…..

2. From ,”The Cry of Mother Earth,” 2016
for the ancestors who,
for the ancestors who, with their lives and struggles, plowed the spirit and the strength of what we now call ecosocialism



Ecosocialism is one of the voices which responds to the cry of Mother Earth, one among many convocations which emerge from our territories. Ecosocialism is a calling in which many others are evoked and resound; one of the many ways to name the pain of Mother Earth, which claims us, names us, and challenges us to change…

Who are we calling upon in response to Mother Earth´s cry and call to the First Ecosocialist International?

Those who never accepted exile call upon us: those who have resisted and remained rooted, who have been punished by a conquest which cannot tolerate them. The fact that they are still alive, speaking their languages at they are still alive, speaking their languages and maintaining their traditions expresses the greatest and most beautiful capacity of resistance and rebellion in and maintaining their traditions expresses the greatest and most beautiful capacity of resistance and rebellion in human history. Their survival, in spite of the mistreatment and abuse they have suffered, guides us and calls out guides us and calls out to us. They are peoples rooted in their land, indelibly interwoven with Mother Earth. It is these peoples who to us. It is these peoples who today confront the greatest risks of extinction.

Those who have returned, who have experienced the desolation of their banishment, and have taken the path home: they too call on us to join them. This is also their place. We need to pay respect to their word and home: they too call on us to join them. This is also their place. We need to pay respect to their word and experience by making it our own.experience by making it our own.

Those of us who, in word and action, in multiple and diverse ways and on different paths, resound with our commitment to return, and who therefore are walking in this common struggle, call upon ourselves to be, as we certain to become, from and with Mother Earth.

Mother Earth: Those who have remained interwoven; those who were exiled
but have now returned; those who have joined in struggle to take the path back to your bosom and wisdom in word and action: we call upon one another….

We are aware that the few who will take part in the convocation of First Ecosocialist International will not be all not be all of us; indeed that most of us will not be there. Those who will meet in the first encounter of the Ecosocialist International must humbly realize this great limitation and assume an enormous responsibility: to weave a process between and beyond themselves; to carry it on all the required paths towards the liberation of Mother Earth. Although not replaced nor represented, the many absent may count on the commitment and experience of those present to consciously contribute to a movement of movements and a spiral of spirals. We seek neither answers nor leaders, but the weaving of many ways to free ourselves with Mother Earth…

We have decided to make the most of four days, between the 31st of October and the 3rd of November 2017, to be moved, and to lay the foundations for a short, medium and long-term plan of collective action. We must begin to respond in this short time with the greatest wisdom to achieve maximum impact. Thus we aim to identify  prioritize select processes and individuals, who, responding to the criteria outlined here, will exchange experiences and propose directions. The purpose is not to exclude, but on the contrary, to begin to move forward from solid ground and vision towards inclusion. This initial plan of action will be presented both humbly and firmly as the axis of a spiral whose vocation and commitment is to contribute to compose word and action, word in harmony, until all are free from project of death that overwhelms us, until all are interwoven again Mother Earth…

3. From “Combined “Combined Strategy and Plan of Action of the First Ecosocialist International,” 2017

It has been one year since “The Calling of the Spirits” in Monte Carmelo, Lara, when, with spirited minds and seeds in our hearts, we initiated a convocation titled “The Cry of Mother Earth.” Those who responded to this cry are now here: around 100 people from 19 countries and five continents, 12 original peoples from Our America, and ecosocialist activists from 14 states of Venezuela…. we have done the work demanded of us: the
articulation of a combined strategy and plan of action for the salvation of Mother Earth.

We have made the decision and the collective commitment to constitute the First Ecosocialist International: To reverse the destructive process of capitalism; to return t o our origins and recuperate the ancestral spirituality of humanity; to live in peace, and end war.

We recognize that we are only a small part of a spiral of spirals, which has the profound intention to expand and include others until all of us are rewoven with Mother Earth; to restore harmony within us, between us, and among all the other sister beings of nature.

The First Ecosocialist International is not just another meeting, nor another conference of intellectuals to define ecosocialism. We believe that ecosocialism will define itself to the extent that it is reflected and conceptualized in praxis; based on what we do and what we are. Nor is the First Ecosocialist International a single organization or a rubber stamp in constant danger of becoming a bureaucracy. It is a common program of struggle, with moments of encounter and exchange, which anyone may join, by committing themselves to fulfilling one or more of the various actions agreed upon here in order to relieve our Mother Earth. No person or process can be owner or protagonist of that which is done and achieved collectively.

We invite all peoples, movements, organizations, collectives and beings in the world to join the First Ecosocialist International, and to undertake the collective construction of a program for the salvation of Mother Earth…

We have organized our proposals amongst the five elements: Aether, Water, Earth, Fire and Air, interwoven into the spirit, the milk, the body, the energy and the voice of Mother Earth; harvesting our ancestral cultures so that they may be dispersed as seeds throughout the four sacred directions of the world.

These actions are proposed for the short term a time of struggle, for the medium term a time of construction, and the long term a time of utopia, u nderstanding the long term as approximately 500 years…

> Every year between October 31st and November 3rd, we will organize days of shared and synchronized work on a planetary scale for the fulfillment of this Plan of Action
> To follow up and amplify the plan of action of the First Ecosocialist International, we will program a PanAfrican convergence, to promote the interrelationship of Our America with Our Africa….


In the first place, we believe along with Jose Marti that “the best way to say is to do.” The best way to be part of the First Ecosocialist International is to commit yourself to fulfilling one or more of the actions in this Combined Strategy and Plan of Action. In this way, your collectives, organizations, and movements will be “part of the
First Ecosocialist International.” No individual or group is the First Ecosocialist International alone; it is only when we are.


by Ferrial Adam

“The climate movement needs to shift gears from what has been a largely symbolic movement to one that is directly disrupting destructive industries. (…) Our movement needs to judge its progress not by how many media hits our action got nor how many people read our blogs, but by how many power plants we’ve put out of business..” (Rising Tide North America 2010: 10)

Balance of forces
Politically the world seems to be leaning to the right – from Trump to Bolsonaro to Modi to Ramaphosa to Jinping. People across the world are saying enough is enough – Chile, Bolivia, Hong Kong, Lebanon are just a few examples.
The world is facing some of the worst climate shocks in history with extreme fires (California, Australia), water shortages (South Africa and the rest of Africa), floods (India) and droughts (South Africa, East Africa). At the same time there is a growing climate movement. Young and old are resorting to direct actions to stop big polluting companies and countries.
The Climate Justice (CJ) arena is fragmented in South Africa and has resulted in a weak CJ movement. There are two key reasons for this – the first is the ideological differences between the mainstream organisations fighting climate change and the more radical justice groups that have called for systemic changes as a solution to climate change. The second challenge is the perception that “climate change” is all about the environment and thus has been largely left to the environmental organisations.
The Climate Justice Charter (CJC) process is an attempt to revive and build the CJ movement. In the past few years, it is clear that the climate crisis has arrived. We have to take the science seriously to understand its dangers. The world is now experiencing a 1.2-degree Celsius increase in planetary temperature since before the industrial revolution. Carbon concentration in the atmosphere is at over 410 parts per million above the 350-ppm safe level. This is leading to extreme weather events or climate shocks. South Africa’s drought is a climate shock and it is not over.
A strong, vibrant, courageous and creative Climate Justice Movement is needed in South Africa. We must learn from past mistakes to ensure that the CJM is a force that will affect change.

Where have we come from: the road from EJ to CJ
From a Western context, the concept of environmental justice emerged from the USA in the 1980s – when activists put a spotlight on the exposure of poor and black communities to high levels of environmental risks and toxic pollution. In the global south, people have been defending the commons for over 500 years from colonial and industrial powers. The one constant between the two is that environmental injustices were about power relations. (Holifield 2001;; Martinez-Alier et al. 2016)
In South Africa, environmental organisations under apartheid were also advocates for sanctions against multinationals supporting the regime. The issue of environmental injustice was linked directly to the apartheid government and its policies. The earliest reference to “environmental justice” can be traced to a conference held in 1992 where the Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF) was established (Hallowes 1993).
The adoption of the term EJ was an important moment for the EJ movement in SA. It was before the first democratic elections and environmental issues at the time were largely regarded as a ‘white, middle class’ interest with a focus on conservation. The EJ agenda grew as an alternative to this view and incorporated broader social justice and “brown” issues such as health, employment, education and sanitation. (Cock 2004)
The EJ movement has been weak and has failed to gain the attention from left leaning social justice organizations. The Climate Justice movement has the potential to bridge the gap. Climate change has pushed environmental justice to include broader considerations of both environment and justice. And has developed a strong connection between the polluting industries and the direct impacts of climate change. (Schlosberg 2013)

When did Climate Justice (CJ) take root?

“climate injustice = those who are least responsible for climate change suffer its gravest consequences”. The climate movement has changed fundamentally in recent years. It emerged as a response or need for a civil society voice on the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC). A large umbrella group called the Climate Action Network was created in 1989 “to coordinate the NGO response” (Busby 2010: 107) to the work of the UNFCCC. Since that formation there has been a definite radicalisation in the network with a shift to building a climate movement. The history of the term “climate justice” can be traced to as early as 2000. In 2009, the Climate Justice Action Network was formed during the run-up to the Copenhagen UNFCCC Summit. It proposed civil disobedience and direct action during the summit, and many climate activists used the slogan ‘system change not climate change’. Ironically, it was at the failed Copenhagen meeting (COP 15) that there was a crucial shift from speaking about climate change to a focus on climate justice that resulted into two separate groups and organisations – Climate Justice Now and Climate Action Network. There was agreement that humankind is responsible for the changes in the climate of the planet that will have catastrophic effects should they go unchecked, but they disagreed on how to tackle climate change. The climate justice group (Via Campesina) called for complete system change and rejected false solutions such as Clean development Mechanism and other green economy solutions, while the Climate Action Network (WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam to name a few) took a more moderate approach and were open to working with polluting industries and supporting the green economy. This divide weakened the struggle against climate change from an international to a local organizing level and was felt in South Africa with the two groups of SACAN and CJN!SA. A pivotal moment for the Climate Justice Movement was the alternative summit hosted by Bolivia in April 2010, where the “People’s Agreement” calling for climate justice was adopted. The debates at this alternative summit was significant to the climate justice movement.

The call for Climate Justice promises a renewed grassroots response to the climate crisis. Climate justice has the potential to bring the movement back to its radical roots. As such, it can provide concrete action at local levels and importantly offer solutions from below.

Second, the climate justice frame is broader in its appeal, allowing the movement to connect to broader social justice movements. At the same time, a new phase of symbolic climate activism, committed to raising the alarm, has come to the fore such as #FridaysForFuture and Extinction Rebellion. However, it is important we engage in active and conscious national climate justice movement building based on our own historical experience of mass struggle, our common vision and approach to climate justice in South Africa while deepening international solidarity.

Learning lessons from our struggles for solidarity

While the shift from climate change to climate justice is an important one and has the potential to build a strong movement, we must learn from past experiences. In South Africa, there have been numerous movements that were active at various point in history. There are three key aspects that must be borne in mind when developing movements in South Africa. First the national liberation movement has not emancipated South Africa. Merely creating a few rich people is not liberation when the vast majority still suffer. Part of the reason for this is that the liberation movement abandoned its own vision and programmatic commitments as contained in the Freedom Charter. Many who joined the struggle believed in the Charter, but its aspirations have not been realised and hence we have a continuity of economic apartheid. Second is what was witnessed with the Treatment Action Campaign. The movement was weakened by the dependency on donor funding and the lack of reciprocating support to other groups and organisations. The third aspect was learnt from the fall of the Anti-Privatisation Forum. The move from a loose alliance to a structure led to community group-entrepreneurship. As people competed for resources, it was clear that they were motivated by self-enrichment rather than the principles of the movement. There were also instances of sexual harassment and sexism. Without a conscious understanding of feminist practice at all levels of the organisation women will always be disempowered. The strength of both movements was the development of strong principles and operating rules.

Theory of Transformation from Below
We are running out of time and large-scale societal change has to happen fast. A corrupt state, a failing economy and increasing climate shocks have to be addressed at once. This means we have to build from within, alongside and beyond the current system. Building from below is the frontline. Local leadership is crucial. Power has to be constituted through advancing different forms of disruption (symbolic, strategic and systemic pathway building) informed by the Climate Justice Charter. We have to raise consciousness in our society, #gridlockcarbon capital and advance alternatives at the same time. We are not a lobby group or a front for a party. We are an independent and conscious grassroots movement seeking to shift society towards fundamental socio-ecological transformation, so we survive catastrophic climate change.

What should a movement look like in SA?
The Climate Justice movement must have ‘soft coordination’ and be a loose alliance of communities, groups, organisations and individuals. It is a given but should be repeated that such a movement must operate in a transparent, inclusive, open and democratic manner. There must be representation of people from all walks of life informed by gender, race and class.
Its central sphere of operation must be the local where climate shocks will be and are the worst. Its basic unit should be a Climate Justice Forum, in a community, involving organisations and individuals. It should convene regularly to organise, campaign and advance the climate justice struggle. Such a forum should also convene community imbizos/assemblies to rally the community.
At a national level it should convene at least two forums, per year, at which an annual common program of disruption (involving symbolic, strategic and systemic pathway building), to advance the Climate Justice Charter, is agreed, political education happens, and strategic perspectives elaborated. All of these national priorities must be informed by local campaigns, struggles and the offerings of partner organisations that might operate on other levels.
The national level should be convened by a rotating secretariat, made up three alliance partners, willing to volunteer to convene the movement nationally for a year. Such a secretariat should have convening authority, derive its mandate from the national forums and renew its role in such forums, if partners want to continue serving the movement. They would also serve as the media spokespersons of the movement nationally. Locally every forum should engage the media.
One of the most divisive elements in any structure is the issue of funding. We need to move away from donor driven to grassroots and programmatic self-organising. This means resources must be understood as more than money but includes human capacity, community support, commoning (like seed banks) and more. In addition, grassroots financial sustainability must be developed, each network partner must contribute what they can in terms of resourcing and common fundraising initiatives must be agreed to like an online climate justice newspaper or community food sovereignty markets, for example. We need to bring together old methods of mobilising (door-to-door, cake sales to fund campaigns) with new knowledge, energy and experience (social media, creative arts/theatre)

A Movement Guided by Principles
Climate Justice links human rights and transformative change to safeguard the rights of the most vulnerable while sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.
Climate justice is informed by science but must consider the context within which we operate as many South Africans often feel locked out of the knowledge, disconnected or uninformed.

Some principles that may be considered for a grassroots driven climate justice movement:
1. Unite and build convergences in the climate justice struggle amongst movements and community organisations. Red has to become green and green has to become red. Moreover, the strength, contribution and independence of each network partner must be acknowledged and encouraged;
2. Active commitment to advancing the Climate Justice Charter vision, goals and practices;
3. Actively struggle for decarbonisation of society, including fossil fuel phase out to prevent a 1.5°C overshoot but in a manner that prioritises the needs of workers, affected communities and the most vulnerable;
4. Advance systemic alternatives in communities, villages, towns, cities and workplaces as part of the just transition to bring down emissions, build resilience, ensure climate disaster relief and speedy regeneration of destroyed life supporting systems;
5. Ensure community and workplace participation in the deep just transition;
6. Democratise science and ensure ongoing education, consciousness raising and popular empowerment;
7. Affirm respect for local knowledge, language and experience
8. Practice collective, radical non-racialism and gender conscious leadership at all levels of the movement;
9. Democratic deliberation through debate, reflecting on practice, sharing experience, learning exchanges, research and movement forums at local and national level.



Some questions for debate:
1. What lessons can we learn from the South African national liberation struggle about movement building?
2. What lessons can we learn from post-apartheid movements regarding movement building?
3. Why is the creation of a climate justice movement necessary for South Africa?
4. How should such a movement operate institutionally, so it does not take away from grassroots driven power and politics?
5. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed principles?
6. What is missing from the perspective advanced in this document?

Towards a new internationalism – the Anti-apartheid solidarity and movement building

By Natalya Dinat

The Anti-apartheid movement (AAM) was a loosely organised social movement for
solidarity that became an international movement. Its simple aims were necessarily
reformist, as opposed to revolutionary. Its strategy and programs were guided in the main
by the ANC and alliance partner the SACP. International solidarity was one of the “four
pillars of struggle” of the ANC, it made the others possible and was only possible
because of the others – (others were mass mobilisation, armed struggle, underground

A short history
Late 1940s – 1960
There was a high anti -fascist sentiment amongst ordinary peoples of Europe immediately
after the second world war. Fascism, was accepted by liberals and socialists as an evil to
be vanquished. After the war, Britain built a strong trade union movement and the workers’ movements
had gained hard won concessions such as the National Health Service. The 1950’s also
saw the Cold War take hold. Anti-colonial struggles were afoot and within many national
liberation movements were struggles between a nascent national bourgeoise and

After the implementation of apartheid laws, some South Africans were able to move to
Britain, mainly to pursue an education. Amongst them were communists. The
internationalist principals of communists led them naturally to work closely with the CPGB
and with the British Labour Party. The importance of international support for national
liberation became clear. They became involved in the Committee of African Organisations
around 1958 (CAO).

Since 1907 consumer boycotts been a tool of struggle in South Africa especially during the
defiance campaigns of the 1950s. The first call for an international consumer boycott was
by the first All-African People’s Conference, held in Accra in 1958. The CAO, based in
London, launched a major boycott campaign in 1959. Broad mobilisation was consistent
with the inclusive approach of the ANC and its allies. It was decided that “all support
should be welcomed and none excluded, and that the campaign should be seen as a
‘liberal’ (small ‘l’) issue and not in terms of party politics at all.”
This culminated in a successful mass demonstration in February 1960 with an estimated
15000 people marching.

1960- early 1970s
The AAM took the struggle to the United Nations and pressurised governments for
economic, military and diplomatic isolation. International legal rulings, of apartheid as a
crime against humanity, undoubtedly assisted the struggle being waged all fronts. Victories
claimed by the AAM included enough pressure to save the Rivonia trialists from hanging,
and the outrage generated during the Springbok tour of 1969.

1970’s -1991
The AAM initiated campaigns for the arms embargo and a disinvestment campaign in
response to crisis of capital of the early 1970s. The end of the 1970s saw the start of the
Thatcher – Reagan era introducing Milton Freidman’s “free market capitalism” and shock
doctrine. The oppression in countries such as Chile, South Africa, and the rise of racist
facist political parties (British National front) and of course the devastating destruction of
the trade union movements began.

The AAM grew in 1980s from a small pressure group to a movement of many thousands
of supporters, organising the biggest demonstrations Britain had yet seen. It mobilised
youth, churches, workers, trade unions, political parties and community organisations.
Globally the AAM spread to the USA, western Europe, India and to a lesser extent in
Africa. The Free Nelson Mandela Campaign was an impressive global phenomenon.
There were solidarity movements with many other oppressed peoples across the globe. I
remember participating in demonstrations against the US invasion of Vietnam in the early

It became almost a requirement as a liberal to join the fight against apartheid. The AAM
had begun to mobilise in black and ethnic minority communities and working class
communities when the ANC was unbanned. There were also outstanding sacrifices, a step beyond solidarity, which were of immeasurable significance, these included:
The use of volunteers, such as the London recruits , willing to risk ones life or freedom in
the name of internationalism, reminiscent of the heroes of the International Brigades
fighting fascism in Spain in the 1930’s
Significant material assistance requested by liberation movements came from the socialist
countries, the front line states, Nordic governments as well as ordinary peoples from all
over the world. Cuba was the only country to provide direct military assistance.

Lessons learnt
Successes of the AAM were due the following:
– its ability to mobilise broadly across the political spectrum, and its ability to hold this
alliance in the face of the fierce anti-communism of the Cold War.
– the liberation program of the ANC enabling clarity and guidance for the AAM.
– Nations’ democracies being more functional meaning that people were able to effectively
pressurise their governments.
– Trade unions were strong, as were other left political groups, so there was a higher level
of political consciousness.
– Inequality and absolute poverty was less than now, in the global north more people had
work security.
– There was significant material support from the Socialist bloc , which enabled the two
pillars of struggle of armed struggle (even if it achieved mainly symbolic gains) and
underground work , which in turn enabled the mass struggle and international solidarity.
– Direct (horizontal) links were effective. For example workers of the NUM SA linking with
NUM GB, The Dunn shop workers striking in solidarity had a ripple effect amongst retail
– the broad alliance led to a strong influence by the neoliberal agenda, which the ANC was
unable to resist post 1991.
– the movement took over 40 years to reach levels of international mobilisation of the

The world has changed
– For many people across the world there is an erosion of national democracy, countries
have become oligarchies, autarkies, kleptocracies or a malfunctioning state. Ability by
movements to influence policy or even raise accountability of governments are becoming
more rare. Does this make peaceful mass action, a hallmark of the AAM ineffective? One
has to to look at the ineffective largest mass mobilisation ever in Europe against the war in
Iraq in 2003
– An associated a rise of corporate influence in the political sphere. It may be worth
discussing the type of impact of economic sanctions and consumer boycotts on the
market. Was it of political value, or did it impact on the market? Today, what kind of
economic sanctions would be effective?
– The rise of the gig economy, allowed by the destruction of trade unions in Britain, SA
and other countries. (Although Germany and France seem still to have strongish

– The world systems marxists generally delineate capitalist periods of accumulation in
decades, accentuated by periods of crisis. But we have less than a decade before we
face unimaginable global food, shelter and water crises.
– We cannot wait for capitalism to destroy the planet. This rather puts a spoke in the wheel
of marxists determinists who will wait until capitalism is a spent logic.
– Social media is a powerful tool of capitalism to swing elections, create mob violence fear
and hatred, and acts as a counter to political consciousness raising.
– Increasing inequality tied to austerity measures.
– The fall of the the Soviet bloc
– the ideological vacuum of the left.
– The rise of fascism and normalisation of racism
– Capitalism is a globalised force today – so we need a global counter -movement. This
movement, unlike the AAM should be a political and revolutionary movement in the sense
that it cannot reform capitalism. As well as globalised finance social and political aspects
of capitalism have also gone global; wars , migration, slavery, labour migrant systems,
health issues, and of course the inescapable effects of carbon economy.
Theoretical and practical issues for us today
– A Socialist International cannot be a broad alliance, including left-ish liberals. However
it should be able to make strategic short term alliances with liberals. eg when fighting
fascism in India. It should also make locally and internationally strategic alliances with
anti-racist, feminist, anti-ecocidal groups, whilst maintaining its anticapitalist stance. –
-Interactions with struggles of indigenous peoples, women, youth, gender non-binary
and smaller right based campaigns should not detract from the fight against capitalism.
We need to develop an understanding as to how their struggles fit in a modern marxist
revolutionary praxis. Because, unless we address the immediate important or lifethreatening
concerns of the poor they will continue to vote for extreme right.
– As Amin wrote in his last essays, the centre and periphery are not as they were. Within
some nation states , exist such extreme inequality , disenfranchisement of large
sections of the population (eg SA, USA, Brazil) that we can see “center/periphery’
issues. not even semi-periphery. An re-analysis of this will assist in developing strategy
toward the problem of diagonal and top down or bottom up relationships between
national movements.
– Finally Luxembourg’s writings on the tension between historical determinism – the
inevitability of the collapse of capitalism – and the voluntarism of emancipatory action.
I think that the contradictions of volunteerism and determinism are that they are
inextricably and dialectically linked and the one gives rise to the other. However we are
at a critical stage for the future of humanity that does not allow the luxury of determinism –
the house is on fire – we have no time , we must act, locally and globally.
Finally there are three important issues for us in South Africa if we are to contribute
meaningfully first – is to raise political consciousness amongst all our people. To do this
requires urgent work at the “grass root’. Political literacy is ties up with basic literacy. we
need many workers’ schools, night schools, community radio, TV.
secondly a contemporary socialist theory for the International
thirdly a political program to fight fascism, stop wars , nuclear weapons and violence
(opposite of democracy), and reverse inequality – stop discrimination, promote rights of
women and oppressed sections of the population, stop ecocide destruction of the planet,.
A modern variant of Peace, Bread Land is
PEACE (not fascism, yes to democracy) , BREAD (and water for all) , LAND (our planet
for all)



1. Arianna Lissoni PhD Thesis The South African Liberations movements in exile
2. Ankie Hoogvelt the Third world in Global development.
3 The History of the Anti apartheid movement
4 Nancy Fraser The significance of Rosa Luxemburg youtube
5 Chase Dunn et al 21st Century trajectories of globalisation
6 Amin S Towards the Fifth International ?

You Can’t Have Market Polarization without Political Polarization! A Tale of Two Siblings: Liberalism and Fascism

By Ingar Solty

In the early 1990s, hardly anyone would have doubted that liberal market economics was the path towards technological innovation and efficiency, economic stability and political stability. Liberal economic policy, based on the three pillars liberalization of trade, deregulation of (labor, financial etc.) markets and privatization of public assets, would lead to prosperity and even democratization of authoritarian regimes. Liberal economics implied that releasing the forces of the market would tend towards “spontaneous orders” (F.A. Hayek) and the most efficient allocation of resources. In fact, mathematized and de-historicized, neo-classical economic theory is based on the assumption of an equilibrium and crises are not supposed to occur in a “self-regulating” market.

Real neoliberalism however has led to quite the opposite effect. Instead of creating an equilibrium, forty years of neoliberalism have led to disequilibrium to an unimaginable extent. Instead of reducing economic and social imbalances, not only has neoliberalism brought about the highest level of wealth inequality seen since the 1930s Great Depression, it has also unleashed tremendous centrifugal forces which created vast geographical divergences – between the global North and the global South, between a Eurozone core and periphery, between prosperous metropolitan regions like Germany’s Rhein-Main area adapted to the trans-nationalized economy and dilapidated and depopulated regions like Germany’s Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, between functioning inner-city islands of wealth like central Paris or Brussels and the dysfunctional banlieues of Clichy-sous-Bois and Molenbeek where hatred builds up among segregated immigrant working-class populations.

The notion that liberal market economies would lead to innovation, efficiency and economic as well as political stability has thus been shattered.

Neoliberalism is not innovative. Economists like Mariana Mazzucato have shown that neoliberalism was the opposite of innovative, given that almost all the innovations of the digital age came out of publicly funded research project eventually patented and plundered by hedge funds and other financial capital. Neoliberalism is not efficient. The climate catastrophe is the biggest market failure in the history of humankind. Neoliberalism has also not led to economic stability, as not only the aforementioned geographical divergences but also the never-ending cascades of financial crises since the 1980s have shown. And neoliberalism has led to the opposite of political stability. And that comes as no surprise: It is impossible to have market polarization without political polarization.

Liberal democracy therefore is in retreat and in crisis. The stable post-war democracies of the West are falling apart in front of our eyes, former catch-all parties like the French Socialist Party or Greece’s PASOK collapse, the post-war party systems are fragmented (“Italianized”), and forming stable governments is becoming ever-increasingly more difficult. The hegemonic crisis of the neoliberal-imperial center has created new political systems with three poles: a tremendously weakened neoliberal-imperial center, right-wing authoritarian nationalism, and a new class struggle-oriented neo-socialist left, embodied most prominently by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK or the movement behind Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the U.S.

The representation crisis, which neoliberalism brought about, created “right-wing populist” forces early on; since 2016, the far-Right has also proven that it is increasingly capable of seizing political power – in the U.S., Great Britain (Brexit), Hungary, Poland, Austria, Italy, Brazil, the Philippines, and India. Meanwhile, even the former conceptive ideologues of neoliberalism – Francis Fukuyama and Thomas L. Friedman – have lost faith in the healing capacities of liberal representative democracy, and they have expressed their open envy with regards to the enormous statecraft of the Chinese state and its one-party system.

And indeed, it is difficult to have faith in the problem-solving capacities of neoliberalism and representative democracy. The world has entered a six-dimensional crisis which stretches across (1) the crisis of an over-accumulating global economy with its speculative bubbles of surplus capital seeking profitable investment outlets in the financial markets and in metropolitan housing, (2) the crisis of social cohesion, which results from the imbalances neoliberalism has produced in combination with the precarization and insecurities that come with a capital-driven digitalization and the dismantling of the welfare into a workfare state, (3) the crisis of social reproduction, which the feminization of the labor market under neoliberal conditions and the re-familization of social reproductive labor following from austerity measures have caused; (4) the crisis of democracy described above, which is the result of the first three crises in particular; (5) the crisis of world order connected to the relative decline of the U.S. and its attempt to keep rising China in a subordinated position in the hierarchy of the international division of labor; and (6) the crisis of ecological sustainability and the imminent climate catastrophe, climate apocalypse.

In all of this, it is amazing to observe that liberal-democratic capitalism has proven to be unable to plan for the future. One would think that in a civilizational crisis this deep, political parties with a natural claim to power – like the German Christian Democrats, who have been governing almost throughout since the end of World War II – would formulate a vision which addresses all levels of this six-dimensional crisis in a coherent project and which seeks to lead all members of society out of this crisis. Instead, beyond leftist attempts like the UK Labour Party’s electoral platform or the socialist Green New Deal suggested by various radical left parties, the crisis of liberal democracy entails that all visions of a better tomorrow have shifted into Silicon Valley, ranging from liquid democracy via transhumanism to the colonization of space. Meanwhile, Western liberal-technocratic parties are increasingly turning into short-term oriented tactical and self-serving machines. And why should it be different? The average turnover time of private, for-profit capitalist enterprises’ management is four years, the internal economic plans of those enterprises is five years at best, and elections take place at least every four or five years. The mentality emerging from those structures: Let someone else figure out a solution to the climate apocalypse, we need to make profit resp. we need to be re-elected!

Now, the six-dimensional crisis has also led to a resurgence of anti-neoliberal opposition. 2011ff saw the biggest “cycle of contention” (Sydney G. Tarrow) since 1967 and 1973. Not only in the West, but all over the world hundreds of millions of people protested against the impact of the nearly global austerity turn of 2010ff. And when it became clear that no matter how many people poured out into the streets, governments still continued with their austerity measures, some of these protests were transformed into state power projects like SYRIZA in Greece or Podemos in Spain. And while the ruling elites’ response to the global financial crisis had been strategies of “internal devaluation” (of wages and costs) in the name “competitiveness,” these parties and movements outlined a socially inclusive, ecological exit strategy from the crisis based on “up-valuation”. Here is not the space to clarify why, but the point is: they were defeated. And the July 2015 defeat of the SYRIZA government by the Troika (ECB, EC, IMF) and the rise of the far-Right in the second half of 2015, during the European “refugee crisis”, and during 2016 must be seen as connected.

In his 1974 book “Fascism and Dictatorship,” the Greek-French Marxist state theorist Nicos Poulantzas analyzed the causes of different forms of authoritarian rule. Against the notion that, during capitalism’s crisis of the 1930s, fascism had come to power because of the strength of the socialist labor movement, he argued that it was, on the contrary, the weakness of the socialist labor movement to take power under conditions of deepest social crisis. The failure of an exit strategy from the crisis based on hope and the idea that there is enough for everyone created and creates the condition for exit strategies based on despair and the exclusion of the less-deserving. And like during all three previous big or organic crises of capitalism (the Long Depression 1873-1896, the Great Depression 1929-1939 and the crisis of Fordism 1967-1979), the far Right has also risen in today’s organic and six-dimensional crisis based on a right-wing radicalization of the “middle classes.” The “middle class,” i.e. the old and new petty bourgeoisie, is vulnerable to the appeal of fascism not only because its upwardly mobile and because its aspirations are tied to the bourgeoisie. In a situation of crisis, their strong belief in meritocracy, their internalization of market competition and the social-Darwinist belief that there is not enough for everyone anymore means that large middle class segments will seek to protect their economic status by appealing to the elites that they should punish the less deserving and exclude them: the hungry mouths of the domestic poor, the hungry mouths of the Greeks, the hungry mouths of Syrian refugees.[1] And this appeal to charismatic leaders to ensure this illiberalization is reinforced by the fact that many of them are structurally or psychologically unable to seek solidarity-based exit strategies, either because as self-employed or small-business people they cannot unionize or because their general embrace of the social-Darwinist logic of competition in the market has created an individual isolation and authoritarian outlook to the world, which is sparked by status fright.

Right-wing authoritarian nationalism therefore is no false consciousness. Furthermore, it is wrong to say that capital is behind fascism. Yes, certain individual billionaires, fossil-fuel and energy-intensive capital factions, domestically oriented or internationally non-competitive capital fractions may support right-wing authoritarian nationalist forces. And yet, while historic fascism was functional to the dominant fractions of then still nationally organized bourgeoisies, today’s right-wing authoritarian nationalism and neo-fascism is dysfunctional to the dominant capital fraction in the power blocs of the core capitalist countries today: transnational capital. For instance, as long as the German far-Right party AfD does not embrace the Euro (as the precondition of German capital’s transnationalization), the EU (as the political stepping stone for future power projection around the world) and NATO and trans-Atlanticism (as today’s precondition of protecting private property around the world with the military capacities of the American Empire), then this party cannot be in national coalitions with the Christian Democrats, understood as the natural ally of transnationalized capital in Germany.

In other words, right-wing authoritarian nationalism is undoubtedly a friction of the abovementioned economic instabilities caused by the implementation of actually existing neoliberalism. As was said, it is impossible to have economic polarization without political polarization.

Still, the problem is that right-wing authoritarian nationalism may be a friction of the globalization of capitalism, but at the same time it always only fights against the symptoms and never the root causes of it. Hence, right-wing authoritarian nationalism will fight against refugees and migrants, but it never tackles its root causes “free” trade agreements which lead to state failure and racialized and confessionalized armed conflicts which then create the record numbers of displaced people. Right-wing authoritarian nationalism (RAN) also always scandalizes crime (as long as it has been committed by people which do not fit into RAN’s “völkisch” ideas of homogeneity); but RAN never addresses the root cause of crime: rampant wealth and income inequality, even though the most unequal countries in the world also happen to be the most crime-infested and insecure countries in the world. And thirdly, RAN expresses a toxic masculinity which seeks to “put women into their place” again, i.e. seeks to re-establish patriarchal power over women and revolts against women’s ambitions to distribute social reproductive labor equally; but RAN never tackles the origins of the feminist rebellion: the ever-increasing exhaustion of female workers who are on the verge of breaking down under the strain and dual exploitation of vocational and social reproductive labor.

Here is not the place to speculate why this is the case that RAN only tackles symptoms but never the root causes: capitalism and patriarchy. It can be discussed whether it has to do with the fact that conservatism and fascism as conservatism’s radicalized form are literally reactionary ideologies. Unlike liberalism and socialism, conservatism never has had a coherent state and social theory and no coherent program as to how construct the economy, society etc. In fact, ever since its birth in opposition to the French Revolution, conservatism has always revolted against the very idea of constructing “ideal” orders in the head. In that sense, to quote the neo-conservative David Horowitz, “conservatives know what [they’re] against”, the left and its vision of equality, “but [they] don’t know what [they’re] for.”

However, such a blind revolt against the modernity of globalized capitalism, which has radically forced subjects to alter their social behavior, (language, cross-cultural etc.) skills, culture, mentality etc., is extremely dangerous. And just as much as neoliberalism can always argue “neoliberalism has not failed, we just have to deepen it” (because the total unleashing of market forces would completely destroy society and therefore always creates movements defending society against the nightmare which is neoliberalism), right-wing authoritarian nationalism also is a Sisyphean task. It is neoliberalism’s offspring and its policies, when it is in power, continue to make the effects of neoliberalism worse and worse. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, they create the conditions of a global civil war they keep warning about in ever-more extreme ways.

Neoliberalism and fascism are like siblings: The ruthless behavior of the older creates the blind rage of the younger, moving the world further and further down the slippery slope of liberalism into fascism.


[1] [When solidarity fails or rather when it is defeated, then it turns exclusive: solidarity with the deserving, solidarity with the in-group, the homogenous “Volk.”]