Michael Hudson, David Harvey and Bertell Ollman: Three Marxist Takes On Climate Change, Left Forum 2019

End Capitalism Before It Ends Us & the Planet-CleanEnergyMarch-4-1470292

Image by Mark Dixon via Flickr

with Michael Hudson
Writer, Dandelion Salad
July 3, 2019

Left Forum 2019

Essential Dissent on Jun 30, 2019

Panelists: David Harvey, Bertell Ollman, Michael Hudson

Climate change is the main subject of the day, and rightly so. What do Marxists have to say that may be helpful in understanding it and hopefully (and it’s only a possibility) stopping it? Or, What is the relation between climate change and class struggle?

[Hudson begins at 4:17 minutes into the video; Harvey at 24:55; Ollman at 50:16; Q&A begins at 1:18:55.]

Michael Hudson is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of …and forgive them their debts, J is for Junk Economics (2017), Killing the Host (2015), The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt: A History of Theories of Polarization v. Convergence in the World Economy (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971), amongst many others. He can be reached via his website Michael Hudson, mh@michael-hudson.com.

from the archives:

David Harvey, Michael Hudson, David Kotz and Alexander Buzgalin: The End of the “End of History” (Left Forum 2019)

Chris Hedges, Kali Akuno and Richard Wolff: Lenin: His Works’ Pertinence Here and Now, Left Forum 2019

The $5,000,000,000,000,000 Question? By William Bowles

To Survive: We Need A Global Awakening Much Bigger Than A “Revolution,” Much Deeper Than Just Ending Capitalism by Eric Schechter

Chris Hedges: Unless We Bring About A Transformational Change By Overthrowing Corporate Power and Establish A Socialist System, All Efforts To Create A Green New Deal Will Be Stillborn

We Need To Overthrow The Present Political System by Eric Schechter

David Swanson: We Can’t Save the Climate Without Ending War

Chris Hedges: The Issue Before Us is Death

What Price a Livable Planet? by Paul Street

Our Way Of Life Must Die — Another World Is Possible

17 thoughts on “Michael Hudson, David Harvey and Bertell Ollman: Three Marxist Takes On Climate Change, Left Forum 2019

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  5. Following up on my challenge to Michael Hudson at the panel and subsequent online discussions, Michael decided he was wrong to attack Margaret Flowers, Jill Stein and the US Green Party and issued an apology to them. Here is our interchange:

    MITCHEL wrote:
    Hi Michael,

    Your comments regarding Margaret Flowers and the Green Party really freaked me out. Are you okay? Your comments re: the leaders of the Green Party in this country made no sense, while your comments on economics were as usual very interesting. I often forward your essays through to our Green networks, and people there respond generally in a very interested and supportive way.

    I talked briefly with you after the panel, and you said if you maligned Margaret, then you misspoke. Well, I’ve just listened to the tape again to make sure that I didn’t mis-hear your mis-speech, and here’s what you said:

    “As you know, there are two people from the group that is promoting climate change and global warming, the Green Party, in the little rooms in the next building: Margaret Flowers and Jill Stein. As you know the Green Party’s role was to support Wall Street and to support [unclear in my audio tape] and to restrict most opposition to global warming, so that American foreign policy — COULD YOU CLOSE THE DOOR WHEN YOU COME IN! — [Mitchel Cohen, from audience: “Are you for real, Michael?” (I thought you may have been joking, but no!)]. — “as you know, the Green Party in almost every country is the rightwing party, supporting events, supporting the oil industry, so …..”

    Nothing about the size of the different meetings there, and no substantiation about what I consider to be slander re: Greens in the U.S. and of Margaret Flowers in particular.

    You usually offer great analysis, and I generally forward them to a number of listserves.

    Then, at 17:50 you said: “It surprises me that [unlcear] of the people that call themelves the Green Party have [unclear] thought to say [??] so far the externalities have beem lost, and how much of the GDP is actually compensation [unclear] for global warming so that [unclear — autonomous growth?] is actually increase in overhead. They have done that and I congratulate …. BULLSHIT! [shouts a member of the audience] … THANK YOU FOR YOUR SOLIDARITY, I THOUGHT THIS WAS A LEFT CONFERENCE

    You talked about the Green Party in Iceland that was voted down on the issue (whatever it was) and the democratic government was voted out of power there “because the Green Party supported the banks, not the environment.”

    You then said 1:35:39 If you don’t say who are the people benefiting from global warming, and if you don’t go after the beneficiaries — “this is not something the oil companies wand to hear, it’s not something the Green Party wants to hear …”

    To tell you the truth, I haven’t been that angry in a long time. I and others have been clubbed, gassed and imprisoned for confronting these corporations and their apologists. And so have thousands of other Greens. Could you really not know that? We’re all over the internet and in the streets all the time.

    I was also upset that Bertell said nothing about these allegations of yours, and neither did David Harvey. In so doing, they let your remarks stand unopposed, which is very unfortunate.

    Michael, I sincerely hope you are okay …. the quotes from you were just so bizzare ….

    Thanks for writing this.

    I certainly support the Green’s objective in stopping global warming.

    My problem — based mainly on my experience with European greens — Is that they won’t be able to deliver without goiing after the beneficiaries and sponsors of global warming: the oil industry and U.S. foreign policy based on control of the world’s oil trade, with Wall Street behind them.

    Many on Wall Street back the greens and, thanks to their donations, rise to key positions. The problem is that when it comes down to action, they will make a compromise that will not solve the climate crisis, but will seek to accommodate it, by such policies as carbon pricing and trading, or personal cuts in one’s carbon footprint.

    What is needed is a quantum leap. I realize that you and many other greens want this — the problem is the leadership.

    Bertell’s point was that it’s all part of an overall system, and you need to look at the whole system to understand how to deal with the problem. I think he’s right when he says it’s Wall Street/capitalism, magnified by U.S. Cold War diplomacy pushing oil.

    But the Green leadership, I think, will not take the step of broadening its criticism BEYOND the climate crisis to deal with the economic and diplomatic dimension. By isolating climate change from this basic underlying context, they will remain marginal. And in Europe, their right-wing support of banks and hostility to the left is, to me, a foreshadowing of what would happen here IF the US greens sought to develop an overall economic platform.

    If you think I’m wrong — and I haven’t met with greens in recent years — please tell me.

    I appreciate your writing me about this, and I hope we can resolve it.


    MITCHEL COHEN wrote:
    Hi Michael,

    It’s true that the Green Party in the United States has always been more radical than Green parties in Europe. Even in our splits here, between GPUSA and USGP that came to a head 16 or 17 years ago (and I was intimately involved back then), the leadership of both factions didn’t disagree with each other on the need to attack the corporations, imperialism, GMOs, global climate chaos, the oil companies and the banks. Our fights were over strategies for accomplishing all that, and on whether to structure ourselves primarily as an electoral party or as a direct action organization. Both those tendencies were present in each faction, but in different proportions. But ALL Greens in the U.S. were united in the fight against the banks, oil corporations, and U.S. imperialism.

    When the Brooklyn Greens attended (well, we sort of “crashed”) the Europe-wide Greens meeting held in France in 1999, which included all Green reps in the European Parliament, this was a few years after rank-and-file Greens in Germany had split into the “Realos” and the “Fundis” and members of the Fundis hit Joschka Fisher with red paint for his endorsements of the U.S. and NATO war in Yugoslavia. Many of our challenging questions were asked of the large gathering (they had to be submitted on index cards), and the presiding officer would be going through the pile and saying, “and here’s another provocative question from the Brooklyn Greens.”

    At the time, we met with Greens from all over Europe, and we also had a not very pleasant interchange with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who many of us had up until that time respected because of 1968 — 31 years before!!!

    Time collapses, things change. GPUSA — the more radical of the two parties in the U.S. — is no more, having destroyed itself in typical and stupid internal power grabs (I was editor of its national newspaper for a couple of years, and served on the national coordinating committee) — and USGP held the very large conventions to nominate presidential candidates. Even then, there was no support for U.S. corporations at all — Ralph Nader’s candidacy, and Jill Stein’s as well, TARGETED the giant oil corporations and the banks, and didn’t shy from naming names. In the last few months, Green Party activists Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers (who is a national leader in the Green Party) organized the people’s occupation of the Venezuelan Embassy in D.C. and stayed there for over a month, exposing U.S. government and corporate attacks and attempted coups. They now face ridiculous but very serious charges with potential penalties of 10 years in jail. THEY NEED YOUR SOLIDARITY AND SUPPORT!

    The U.S. Green Party has had differences to be sure with our European comrades, but what you are saying here is really news to me. I’ve been out of that loop for a few years, but we do collaborate on campaigns and certain projects that makes it hard for me to accept your assertions without further details. I realize you were making general impressionistic comments, but something like that really needs to be carefully presented, as the Green Parties differ from country to country and there are also many factions within each country’s party as well. Which individuals did you speak to? Were they representing their party as a whole, or just their own reactionary ideas?

    As in every movement, there are huge differences of opinion on every issue under the sun, and that’s what we’ve been fighting out in the Green Parties for 25 years now. So I’d be really curious to read a carefully delineated set of your observations, with the chance to research them and comment back to you on them.

    I’ve also cc’d my friend and direct action collaborator Brian Tokar, who wrote a number of important books on the history of the Green Party and global climate chaos. Brian’s book Earth for Sale exposed “who’s who” in the non-profit as well as corporate panoply of earth destroyers and his latest book on Climate Justice movements develops those themes in today’s climate-focused movements (you can google Brian Tokar + Climate for more). I’ve written a number of pamphlets and produced numerous radio shows on this score too, with the aim of focusing Green Party and other activists on how we should be addressing these issues. See for example my critiques of Al Gore and Larry Summers, among others, on my website https://www.MitchelCohen.com. (I’ve highlighted direct links for you, just click on their names, above.) Here’s one paragraph from my piece on Larry Summers and Gore, titled “Where the Crises Intersect: Lawrence Summers, Al Gore, and U.S. Environmental and Economic policy”:

    “Lawrence Summers is Capitalism’s chief economist. He was, as we shall see, a major influence on Bill Clinton and Al Gore, whose approach to economics and the environment is continued by Obama. While Gore powerfully illustrated the planetary devastation underway via Global Climate Change in his 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth,” it was Summers who provided GoreÂ’s nonsensical consumer-driven approach about “what to do” to halt and repair the global ecological crisis. Here is where the ecological and the economic intersect.”

    Michael, thanks so much for your CRUCIAL work over the decades. My complaint, to say it one more time, is that it is incumbent on a person in your position, who has the ear of many in our movements, to realize that academics are often unaware of the large number of position papers and radical debates bubbling up inside our movements. I really don’t mean to lecture you, of all people, but one’s views should be crafted very carefully, even scrupulously, and provide proof when you launch a critique to avoid intemperate or ill-informed public statements.

    OK, I shouldn’t have criticized Margaret Flowers. I was wrong about that.I also see that Jill Stein has fought on the right side of many things. When I looked through the Left Forum program and saw them speaking at the same time, I just conflated my remarks with what my message was about the danger of expecting the greens to do more for what their program said than, say, Obama did for what he himself promised. I MEANT to criticize the Green Party’s ties to Wall Street and the Euro-greens’ anti-labor, pro-US policies..

    You can tell others that I retract my personal criticisms here, and should have focused just on what my message was.



    OK, Mitchel, I made a bad leap into the unknown. Sometimes I talk about what I don’t know about. I’m sorry. Please tell Margaret Flowers and the others that.

    Will do.
    Thank you for being a mensch!
    Would be good to enumerate any Green Party’s collaboration with Wall Str. and the banks and oil companies, and be careful about which countries you’re talking about — they all have different policies.

    And, your enumeration would help ME fight within the Greens for exactly what you’re concerned about!!!

    Thanks again.

    Sorry if I was offensive …

    Your offense was justified. I was just stupid.

    The only silver lining is that it helps me write my chapter on Caesar and Bonapartism. All this happened back in Rome after 61 BC.

    ******************************* \
    Hello Michael et al,

    I did hear from multiple people at the Left Forum that you maligned me and I was disappointed by that. I hope it was an error.

    The GPUS is very distinct from other Green Parties in our platform. We are much broader than the climate crisis. We support eco-socialism as well.

    Here is an eco-socialist Green New Deal described by Howie Hawkins, one of the people seeking the Green Party nomination for President: https://howiehawkins.us/ecosocialist-green-new-deal/

    Here is a link to our platform: https://www.gp.org/platform

    The Preamble:

    Never has our country faced as many challenges and crises as we do now. Levels of federal revenue are the lowest they have been since 1950 because of tax cuts and breaks for the very rich and for corporations. Government agencies charged with safeguarding public health and safety are operating with slashed budgets that paralyze their efforts. Jobs are being permanently relocated outside the country, while social and educational programs are being gutted. Our food, water, air, and soil are increasingly found to bear toxins and debilitating pollution. Every single level of government — local, county, state, and federal — is operating in the red, runrunning up crushing amounts of debt. Many of our allies and former friends around the world are disgusted with our imperialist foreign policy, militarism, and arrogant corporate behavior. Realizing that our actions will be judged by future generations, we ask how we can draw on the best of our traditions, calling forth a spirit of ingenuity and citizen participation to achieve a free, democratic, just, and responsible society, one that actively responds to the crucial ecological challenges of our time, rather than denying them.

    We submit a bold vision of our country’s future, a Platform on which we stand:

    Our Ten Key Values as a guide to a politics of vision and action,
    A creative, pragmatic plan for a prospering sustainable economy, and
    A call to restore and protect a healthy, diverse environment and to cultivate a sense of community at all levels, from the local to the planetary.
    We propose a vision of our common good that is advanced through an independent politics free from the control of corporations and big money, and through a democratic structure and process that empowers and reaches across lines of division to bring together our combined strengths as a people.

    We, the Green Party, see our political and economic progress, and our individual lives, within the context of an evolving, dynamic world.

    As in nature, where adaptation and diversity provide key strategies through which life flourishes, a successful political strategy is one that is diverse, adaptable to changing needs, and strong and resilient in its core values:

    Participatory Democracy, rooted in community practice at the grassroots level and informing every level, from the local to the international.
    Social Justice and Equal Opportunity emphasizing personal and social responsibility, accountability, and an informing ethic of Nonviolence.
    Ecological and Economic Sustainability, balancing the interests of a regulated market economy and community-based economics with effective care for the Great Economy in which we are embedded: the ecosystems of the Earth.
    The Green Party Platform seeks to identify the most crucial problems facing our country and offers ideas for responsible action to solve them. Looking to the future with hope and optimism, we believe we can truly correct the course of reckless, destructive governance that has allowed and encouraged the degradation of our ecological life-support systems, gutted our economy, and strained the social fabric to the point of causing material hardship for millions of Americans. Our common destiny brings us together across our nation and around the globe. We act in service to our children and the future generations of all our relations in the Earth community. We act in service to the future we are creating today.


    Here is the letter of apology MICHAEL HUDSON wrote to Margaret FLOWERS.

    Dear Margaret,

    Yes, it was in error. What I had meant to say was that we’re in a political stasis right now — meaning that there is no solution to the economic and political strains that can be resolved within the two-party monopoly of the Wall Street Donor Class in conjunction with the National Security military-industrial complex.

    I had not thought of mentioning either you or Jill Stein, but sitting at the table looking at the program I saw that you were both speaking, in different small rooms, at the same time. I winged it, and had in mind not either of you as much as the European Greens that are on the economic right-wing of the political spectrum.

    I also was in the middle of writing my chapter of my history of Rome on Caesar, for whom Bonapartism or Caesarism is named — for how, in a rigid political crisis blocking all change, a military dictator is usually the only way of resolving matters. So my mind was distracted, and I apologize for winging it in the way I did.

    The problems you had getting a hearing in the 2016 political debates show why the only way to break through, that I can see, is to break up the Democratic Party so that it cannot possibly be elected as long as it’s controlled by the hard right. Since America lacks a parliamentary representational system like Europe has, the Democratic Party is being kept alive as protecting the Republican Party from attacks from the left. In Europe, it would have as few votes as the Social Democrats there have. So the only way I can see out is to break it up and take it over.

    That will take probably beyond either of our lives. I can’t think of how a U.S. Green Party can avoid being excluded, given the 2-party duopoly.

    I share your aims and objectives. I was criticizing the political strategy of a green party on institutional grounds as not a full-spectrum structural program, because I suspect that if you do have a chance of being effective, you’ll be sidelined by the usual culprits who will press for compromise, such as Cap-and-Trade, “human rights” and various sectarian identity politics.

    I suspect that you have recognized this problem, and are dealing with it as best you can.

    I should not have mentioned you in this criticism, but outlined the situation that exists, so I apologize. If I could erase what I said, I would.

    Again, my thanks.
    Just so you are aware, the presenters on panels at the Left Forum do not choose where their panels are placed nor whom they’re up against.
    I ran a panel Friday evening at 5 pm at the Left Forum on “The Politics of Pesticides” which will soon be up on YouTube, and where I and 6 other speakers — 4 of them contributors to my book on Pesticides — blasted away at your targets as well as mine, and also at the social psychology of even ourselves, how we unconsciously fall victim to the capitalism surrounding us even when we don’t want to.

    So I was particularly “exercised” at your comments because some of that was exactly what I was talking about — the difference being, I spoke as part of those movements, and how the pressures are affecting me and all of us …

    Thank you!

    Hey, something good is coming out of this !!!!

  6. A fine discussion by some of the US’s finest, and justly most respected, Marxist theorists. I only wish that some of the folks, or at least one, representing the well-considered eco-Marxist views being developed by those who publish primarily in that fine old Marxist journal, Monthly Review, — which I realized the other day that I have been reading for 47 years now! — like, especially, the always brilliant, John Bellamy Foster. His views would largely harmonize with the perspectives presented here, but he would also have had much additional to bring to the discussion.

    • Al Gore, I understand, but wasn’t sure about why Hudson went after the US Green Party as its platform is very close to socialism, certainly it’s not rightwing like perhaps the European Green Parties may be.

      • As someone who worked (one of four successive campaign managers) on a Jill Stein gubernatorial campaign, I can say that the Green Party USA is not a party. It has no national platform, but rather leaves guiding principles up to local groups, and does no effective organizing. Repeatedly running Stein (who has never held any elected office) for president leads nowhere, and is often resisted by active membership. From my experience, the Greens here have no interest in party-building.

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