The Green New Deal and working-class power

BY:Donald Donato| March 28, 2019

When Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto in 1848, Africans and African- Americans were held in chattel slavery in the United States. The US was ending a war of imperial expansion in Mexico. Since then, throughout the continent and the world, hundreds of millions of indigenous people, farmers and agricultural workers, have been pushed off the land, their fields snapped up by the capitalist class, their water fouled by unbridled profiteers; the soil poisoned with chemicals that are exterminating the delicate fabric of life itself. The ecological and agricultural crises we face today are rooted in that nightmarish heritage of exploitation and oppression, which has only continued to expand.

Existential threat

The first existential threat to humanity and nature is not climate change or loss of biodiversity, though these are extremely serious dangers. The first threat to our survival as a species is the class, and its state apparatus, which stole the lands and nearly exterminated the First Nations of the Americas and Hawai’i; the class that enslaved and continues to enslave African-Americans, the peoples of the Southwest, and of Puerto Rico. The first threat to humanity and wildlife, to the insects necessary for agriculture to continue to provide us with sustenance, is the capitalist class and its state’s use of the earth’s resources.

It is our social system, based on the culture of exploitation, that has artificially placed profits above nature. The exploiters have cherished short-term personal wealth above the long-term health of our planet. It can only be through a clear understanding of this history and our role as a part of nature, that we will be able to successfully save the earth and ourselves from destruction.

It has taken the voices of little children around the country, and the world, to demonstrate that we cannot put our faith in capitalism, or its nation-states, when it comes to dealing with the ecological crises facing us all.

The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal (GND) is an important first step to putting this holistic understanding of our role as a part of nature into action.  The Resolution put before the US Congress by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Markey, seeks to mobilize every aspect of our society toward 100 percent clean and renewable energy, guarantee a good job to all members of our society, and create economic prosperity for all.

We need to work with our allies in the labor and environmental movements to achieve these goals, but we must also be realistic enough to understand that we will face sabotage by the capitalist class at every turn.  This means we must build working-class power, both inside the GND movement, and most importantly, by building the CPUSA as a part of a world movement for ecosocialism.

The threats we face are considerable and intertwined. We face a class of extremely wealthy individuals who dominate global capital, control our state (and many others), and place a stranglehold on land use. These are the same people who have built their extraordinary fortunes on a fossil fuel-based economy that has created the petrochemicals which have hastened climate change and are destroying biodiversity, threatening an agricultural crisis the likes of which has never been experienced in human history.

Ecological agriculture

The successful, long-term implementation of the GND will require the finest working-class tools developed over the past century and a half. We will need more advanced use and development of Marxism and Marxist ecology, the continued reinforcement of Marxist educational programs at national, district and club level.  But there are other working-class tools which we need to offer as solutions to GND goals.

If we look at the GND goal “To secure clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all people of the United States for generations to come”, we quickly come to the realization that only the working-class in power can provide that kind of necessary direction and support, as Cuba demonstrated in the 1990s.

This goal necessitates the widespread introduction of ecological agriculture, which in turn, requires setting land aside for forests and protection of rivers and shorelines. Under our current social system, who will pay the farmer whose land is turned to forest or otherwise removed from production?

Ecological agriculture requires rotation of crops. Some crops bring better incomes than others. Who will cover the difference? The exploiters won’t. Ecological agriculture requires introduction of fungi to replace synthetic fertilizers, various insects to control pests. Who will supply them if they are not profitable by capitalist standards?

Sustainable agricultural practices also require comprehensive planning and organization of resources on a regional level, with informed input, control and interest from below. The land reform, the ensuing support, the planning, the allocation of resources—these can only come from a working-class struggling for power—and taking power.

With the associated cooperatives for production, processing and distribution, ecological agriculture points the path forward. Progress will come step by step. Cuba has pioneered, we must learn and apply their valuable experience.

Given a time-frame of 10 years for implementation of the Green New Deal, these goals are ambitious but achievable if our participation includes building working-class power to change our social system. If capitalism continues to rule the roost, no deal will be clever enough to save us from social and ecological collapse.



Many thanks to W.A. Halabi of the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for his inspiring work in this field and his contributions to this essay. Thanks are also due to the late Richard Levins for his pioneering work with the Cuban state in developing ecological agriculture.



Notes on contributor

Donald Donato has worked with community-based organizations in support of economic, social, and cultural development for over 25 years. His planning research of agrotowns was recently published by International Critical Thought (Routledge). Donald writes for People’s World and is a member of the National Writers Union-UAW / Local 1981. He is currently Organizing Secretary of Walden Workers Club, CPUSA-Massachusetts.




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