Jodi Dean critique of Naomi Klein (and Green politics?)

by Jodi Dean on March 27, 2015

jodi deanJodi Dean

(As a counterpoint to Mark Lause’s article, we are crossposting an article that appeared on Jodi Dean’s website. While it is a critique of Naomi Klein’s “Green Keynesianism” rather than the Green Party per se, it could easily be interpreted as a warning against Green politics as a whole for not emphasizing a “communist” message. We invite North Star readers to weigh in on these issues since they get to the heart of anticapitalist strategy in a period of deepening environmental crisis.)

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Manuel Barrera March 27, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Unfortunately, like Klein and too many others, Dean reduces the issues of how to protect the Earth from disastrous capitalist-induced climate change as one of arguing against “Green Keynesianism” with an all-too-abstract “communism” or the promotion of “revolution” because Klein denies it as necessary (what a surprise that Naomi Klein would want to sell books by trying to pander to liberal pretend “leftism”).

Louis (or whomever made the preamble about discussion regarding “anti-capitalist strategy”) urges us to discuss these two “counterpoints” as a means to arrive at some, perhaps better, framework for dealing with what Dean (and Klein) recognize as the incompatible nature of capitalism with protecting and safeguarding the planet from a veritable “disaster capitalism”.

According to Dean, we have one of three choices (perhaps it should be refreshing that there is at least more than a dichotomy?); promote a capitalist solution to the destruction of the planet (the “neo-liberal” approach), adopt the purported Green Keynesian perspective of Klein, or just feel good that those “we” who know better may revel in the fact that we ” can’t do anything about it”, so, simply chronicle how we were correct along, who knows, for some posterity (you know, for the humaniform lizards that may come next after the “Antrophocene”)?

Dean then goes on about how the “real” problem with Klein is that she denies a “communist” solution and ending the capitalist stranghehold on the wolrd will require a “revolution”. She finally ends with the conundrum in Klein’s trajectory of “Blockadia” as a mobilized mass movement–that apparently occurs without the requisite “community”-based struggles that would necessarily ensue in order to establish such a united movement–that Klein, Dean believes, would not challenge State power despite its own counter power.

I submit that while Klein does not see the role of organized mass movements as a threat to capitalist power (rather a “conscience” to force it into “changing everything”), Dean seems to believe in–or at least does not really go beyond–the idea that to counter Klein’s vision, we must somehow recognize that the masses need a “communist” solution that advances “revolution” as the mechanism necessary to solve the environmental crisis.

There are many problems with Klein’s notions, but I see no real antidote in countering them with what amout to sectarian notions of counterpoising “revolution” and “communism” with “Green Keynesianism”. The truth is neither Klein, nor Dean, nor Proyect, nor me really know what kind of, or how such a, society will emerge that results in “freely associated” citizens who work and produce for mutual benefit.

Importantly, we do not need to know (although it does help to surmise). What we do need to know and need to do NOW is advance a strategy that would result in the organized mass movements of struggle (whether that may be “Blockadia” or other more likely organic forms of mutual interaction). The tendency of these discussions to pick apart people we consider to be “neo liberal” apologists or proponents because they don’t “see the whole picture” is, to borrow from Spanish, “inútil” (English translates to a more understated “not useful”).

I believe we should be less about polemic–especially to people clearly not ossified capitalist apologists–and more about, let’s say, “elaboration”; the notion that other non-Marxists may have some good ideas but perhaps there is a need to point up contradictions and offer better analyses that build upon lesser-developed ideas.

In short, rather than acting like the petulant teen-ager telling a parent how “wrong” they are because “everybody” knows different we should be about the promise of “carefully explaining”, forging relationships, promoting positive interactions, and, most important, seeking to influence the audience of others with larger voices than ourselves. I believe it might have been Trotsky (History of the Russian Revolution?) who once observed that the leaders of the Bolsheviks and the revolution may not have been the “best” people to lead, but they were the people who did, not because they made themselves stand apart as “better” but because they (we) did their (our) best to bring the growing discontent with war and poverty (and, now, the Earth’s destruction) into an organized movement that could give voice to that discontent and turn it into a mechanism to challenge our enemy–capitalism as a failed system. We need allies not opponents or “threats” to our perceived purity.

It is in this vein, that I believe some of the perspectives on connecting with the Green Party or, for that matter, leaders and voices in many emerging movements are more important than “criticisms” (as opposed to “critiques”) of their lack of “communist understanding”. Ideological purity abounds among the enlightened who see climate disaster but whose “communist” politics prevent them from “doing anything about it”.

It’s time we thought bigger than this. It’s time we invited people like Naomi to interact with us not just criticize them. Perhaps such people may be struggling with the “details” or may be ossified in their thinking; we would learn much regardless and we would benefit from the interaction. Perhaps such people wouldn’t come and perhaps they may actually be bourgeois (liberal) apologists. However, we will never know–and most important their audiences and that of others’ would never be able to see it as clearly–if we don’t engage in what I’ve contended continues to be our weakest “muscle” in the revolutionary movement; promoting the traditions of democracy, democratic thinking, and democratic engagement with people who may (or, even, turn out not to) be our allies if even for a short portion of the road forward.

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