A message from DiEM25 co-founder Yanis Varoufakis.
We already live in meta, or post, capitalist times. New feudal lords are emerging whose digital platforms, with the help of governments they control, have grown not just into monopolistic markets but, instead, into private digital fiefdoms in which you, we, everybody, are their neo-serfs.
This is why last year DiEM25 set up mέta, our Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation. In our mission statement we explained its purpose:
“We live in postcapitalist times. They may turn out dystopic, utopic or anything in between. Through art and research, argument and poetry, mέta works to break with a dystopic present to imagine the world anew – to grasp our present historical moment so as to help radical progressive movements find a path from the emergent dismal postcapitalism to one worth fighting, and living, for.”
The most prominent of the techno-feudal lords, Mark Zuckerberg, has already told us what he is planning: To turn Facebook into a 3D metaverse into which people move their lives. A digital world in which they play, work and laugh. A world that he owns and in which we are his digital serfs.
Make no mistake: Zuckerberg, Bezos and Co. are hell-bent on doing exactly that which DiEM25’s mέta was created to prevent: To build a techno-feudal dystopia. And, as if to drive his point home, Zuckerberg announced the first step toward creating it – yes, he will call it… Meta.
So, here we are, staring at a fork in the road:
We can take DiEM25’s mέta road toward a technologically advanced democratised society, leading one day to a Star Trek-like liberal communism. Or,
We can surrender to Zuckerberg’s Meta, a techno-dystopia that will lead humanity to a Matrix-like nightmare.
This is where you come in.
To help us help you walk DiEM25’s mέta path, rather than be sucked into Zuckerberg’s META, here are some simple steps you can take:
Join DiEM25, along with Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Slavoj Zizek, Caroline Lucas and tens of thousands of activists and progressive thinkers.
Contribute to DiEM25, remembering the zillions Zuckerberg is investing in his dystopia. While we do not need zillions to counter his Meta dystopia, we do need your financial contribution. So, please donate!
It’s DiEM25’s mέta or Zuckerberg’s Meta. Let’s seize the day, or Carpe DiEM. For if you, we, don’t, Zuckerberg certainly will!
“Green capitalism”, as a response to the ecological crisis and the crisis of unequal distribution of wealth, is an illusion: technological innovation alone cannot solve problems that are by definition unsolvable in the present relations of power and property.
In his presentation, Vassilis Kostakis, Professor of P2P Governance at TalTech and Faculty Associate at Harvard University‘s Berkman Klein Centerand a member of the P2P Lab cooperative, deconstructed the myth that competition and private initiative promote innovation and described the opposing vision of “cosmolocalism”, according to which the horizontal cooperation of producers on a peer-to-peer basis and the free movement of open technologies offers possibilities for strengthening local communities in dialogue with global realities; possibilities for the democratisation of production, “digital” and “physical” alike, as well as for countering climate change. At the same time, however, he pointed out the limits of these projects, to the extent that the business giants, at the moment the biggest funders of open-source research, are raising new “fences”.
As immediate objectives, however, he highlighted the need to fully utilise open source software in the public sector and to create spaces for the intersection of cooperative production and open technologies, in order to create a plurality of business and technological models; at a broader level, copyright laws need to be changed on a European level.
On his part, Yanis Varoufakis, professor at the University of Athens and secretary of MeRA25, reminded us of the role of state initiative and funding, as well as the cooperative logic in the creation of, e.g., the internet and wi-fi, up until the appropriation of new technologies by private “dinosaurs”, as has always been the case in the history of capitalism.
“We are not going,” he warned, “to simply experience a (r)evolution of these collaborative platforms that will push the capitalist system into the corner – quite the contrary. The only way for this kind of collaborative effort not to have the outcome of Robert Owen’s 19th century project, for example, is through the political action of political parties and movements, which, utilising the knowledge of the fact that these platforms can be more profitable than the capitalist ones, will clash relentlessly with the political, legal and economic aspect of the horrid predicament that private property is.” He further pointed out the importance of this debate for the realisation that technological progress is not identical to capitalism and does not presuppose it.
The particularly active participation of the audience in the Q&A showed the interest that the subject sparks and ultimately its politically crucial nature, encouraging mέta to revisit the issue soon, further focusing on the question of the “commons,” digital and otherwise.
The Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation, mέta, presents Professor Robin Hahnel’s lecture, Climate Disaster: The Greatest Generation?, given at Evergreen State College on the 9th of November 2021 at the invitation of Prof. Savvina Chowdhury and in the context of the ‘Climate Foundations: Political Economy & Political Ecology’ course.
The lecture’s notes:
Climate Disaster: The Greatest Generation?
The Greatest Generation is a book by journalist Tom Brokaw which profiles those who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as well as those whose productivity within the war’s home front made a decisive material contribution to the war effort.
When my generation came of age in the 1960s we faced formidable challenges
After WWII our country quickly became the biggest bully in the world — asserting a right to intervene in the political affairs of other countries in ways we would never tolerate other countries to intervene in ours.
Five generations after slaves were freed, their AfricanAmerican decedents living in the 1960s continued to be consigned to second class citizenship.
By 1966 the trend toward greater economic equality that began during the New Deal and continued briefly after WWII had come to an end.
And the forward momentum of the suffragettes had also been reversed — as Rosie the riveter was sent home to again become an obedient housewife.
As we responded to these challenges my generation was not entirely without accomplishments
To this day I am personally most proud that the anti-Vietnam War movement in which I was an activist contributed substantially toward ending that terrible conflict.
African-Americans of my generation, helped by a small minority of whites committed to winning civil rights for all, brought legalized racial discrimination to an end.
For a few years some of us known as “hippies” challenged Victorian sexual taboos and embraced a culture of cooperation, solidarity, and love.
And women of my generation launched “second wave” Feminism which arguably has achieved my generation’s most permanent accomplishments.
But no historian will confuse my generation with the greatest generation. Among our many failures the most notable are:
After helping force US withdrawal from Vietnam, our Peace Movement failed to secure a “good neighbor” foreign policy, and permitted the US to continue to act as the world’s biggest bully right up to the present day.
We failed to extend the trend toward greater economic equality coming out of WWII. Instead, over the past fifty years we permitted the most rapid rise of inequality of income and wealth EVER!
And we have now permitted our most important accomplishments in the areas of securing minority and women’s rights to be undone by a resurgence of racist and misogynist “roll back.”
Nothing could better symbolize our failure as a generation than the Presidency of Donald Trump, who is exactly my age, who will go down in history as the worst President EVER, and still may become President again as the Nominee of a Republican Party which he now dominates completely.
Donald Trump rose from spoiled-child and Vietnam War draft dodger to become a caricature of illgotten wealth, racism, misogyny, and American exceptionalism – which he proudly touts as his
“America First” foreign policy.
But my talk today is about something else. It is not about a previous generation that deserved the moniker of the “greatest generation,” nor about my own generation which regrettably came up short. My talk is about your generation and climate change.
Arguably my generation’s greatest failure is that we have left your generation to respond to the worst crisis and greatest challenge, humanity has ever faced.
Climate Change: The Greatest Crisis EVER!
Climate change is different from all previous human crises. By over-filling the upper atmosphere with greenhouse gases, humans now risk triggering catastrophic changes in the earth’s climate with literally unthinkable consequences for human civilization and life on the planet.
The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that unless we reduce global carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050 we may pass a climate tipping point beyond return.
Good News and Bad News
The good news is that it is not yet too late. Nor does salvation require new technologies which are unknown and untested. It is perfectly possible for 10 billion people to live far more comfortably than most people live today on this planet, powered almost entirely by renewable energy technologies already at our disposal.
But there is every reason to believe that in order to achieve the “transition” that is necessary your generation will have to overcome political obstacles as great as any generation has ever faced.
First, let’s talk about what you must do. Then we can talk about the formidable obstacles that stand in your way.
What Is to Be Done?
No country can solve the problem of climate change on its own.
Reducing carbon emissions is what we economists call a “global public good,” which creates a perverse incentive for every country to attempt to “free ride” on emission reductions by other countries.
To prevent this “tragedy of the commons” requires effective international cooperation.
The international community has gathered to great fanfare to try to tackle this problem five times over the past thirty years.
In: Rio de Janeiro in 1992
Kyoto Japan in 1997
Copenhagen Denmark in 2009
Paris France in 2015
And now, in Glasgow Scotland in 2021
SO FAR TO NO AVAIL!
What Is Needed… Where We Are…
First I am going to present the outlines of an international treaty that is what is needed… and is possible…. even while most countries continue to have capitalist economies.
Then I’m going to talk about what was launched in Paris instead in 2015, and what is now going on in Glasgow… and may still be possible.
An International Climate Agreement should be Effective, Equitable, and Efficient
Effective means: By 2050 global greenhouse gas emissions must be down at least 80% below their level in 1990.
Equitable means: National responsibility for emission reductions must be allocated according to differential responsibility and capability.
Efficient means: Reductions should take place wherever they are cheapest.
Fortunately we know what kind of international agreement can accomplish all this
The size and speed of global emission reductions must be chosen based on information provided by climate scientists.
The distribution of national reductions must be done in accord with differential responsibility and capability as calculated by “equity specialists” like those at NGOs such as EcoEquity.
Country governments should be allowed, if they wish, to certify emission reduction credits (CERs) for sources within their territories to sell in an international carbon market.
When calculating whether or not a country has done its fair share to prevent climate change, reduction credits purchased by any entity within the country should be subtracted from the country’s reduction responsibility, while any credits sold by any entity within the country should be added to the country’s reduction responsibility.
Why Would This Work?
While it is difficult to determine how many credits to award an applicant for emission reductions, it is easy to measure annual national emissions, which must be done in any case.
As long as national emissions are capped and compliance with national caps are enforced, any mistakes a country government may make when awarding emission reduction credits cannot undermine overall global emission reductions which is the only issue that need concern the international community.
Because charity and guilt are far less powerful incentives in today’s world than self-interest, negotiations over climate reparations, climate debt, technology transfers, and adaptation funds will continue to yield much less than what is needed and deserved. On the other hand, if national emission caps are set fairly self-interest would drive sources in developed countries to purchase certified emission reduction credits from sellers in less developed countries and thereby provide LDCs the opportunity to achieve economic development in an environmentally sustainable way.
What Is Happening Instead?
None of the MDCs agreed to accept fair shares that are binding. Instead, in Paris countries agreed to make “pledges” to reduce their national emissions by specific amounts. Shortly I’ll say something about those pledges. But Paris moved us from national emission reductions which are binding to pledges.
It also moved us from a treaty which would have required contributions to be fair, to one where MDCs are making voluntary pledges in that regard as well.
Since it is both unfair and impractical to expect LDCs to pay for all the reductions in their countries which are needed, and it is cheaper to make reductions in LDCs than in MDCs, MDCs have also pledged to make technology transfers and contribute to a fund to help finance emission reductions in LDCs.
So far the aggregate reduction pledges fall short of what is needed to meet the 1.5 degree Celsius bar scientists have set. And so far the pledges of financial support for LDCs are woefully inadequate.
Glasgow is an attempt to improve in both these regards.
A Massive Green New Deal in the Advanced Economies
Replacing fossil fuels with renewables, transforming not only transportation, but industry and agriculture as well to be much more energy efficient, and rebuilding our entire built infrastructure to conserve energy will be an immense, historic undertaking.
What is needed if we are to avoid unacceptable climate change is the greatest technological “reboot” in economic history. We need to transform what we should think of as today’s Fossil-fuel-estan Economies into Renewconserve-estan Economies.
What does this kind of Green New Deal (GND) consist of?
A GND requires a large green fiscal stimulus – a dramatic increase in government spending on projects like transforming the electric grid to integrate renewable sources, and tax credits for renewable energy.
But since private investment far outweighs public investment, for a GND to be large enough to achieve the necessary transformation means the government must intervene in the credit system to redirect private investment away from asset bubbles and environmentally destructive luxury goods for the wealthy, into renewables and energy conservation.
There IS a Precedent!
The transformation of the US economy in response to WWII is the precedent we need to look to. There is already a substantial literature demonstrating that increasing spending on energy conservation and renewable energy production will create significantly more jobs per dollar of expenditure than spending on fossil fuel extraction and the military.
Some of the most extensive studies have been done by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, under the directorship of Professor Robert Pollin, and are available to the public on their website: www.peri.umass.edu.
Gridlock at the National Level
The Republican Party is doing, and will continue to do everything in its power, to block a GND. Which means that the first task for your generation is to help build the “resistance” movement working to expand the Democratic governing majority, and to replace rightwing Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kirsten Synema who are busy sabotaging the GND with
Democrats who do not.
Opportunities at the Regional and State Levels
In absence of any progress by the national government prior to the Biden administration, much was and is being done in blue states where Democrats control state houses and legislatures.
Climate legislation in California has dramatically reduced emissions there, including inducing car manufactures to make their new cars far more energy efficient nationally since they are now required to meet standards in California, their largest single market..
The Oregon legislature passed the Clean Fuels Program in 2015 which will reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector by 10%. In 2016 Governor Kate Brown signed the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition bill which will remove coal entirely from Oregon’s electricity by 2030, and double the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 50% by 2040. And when the Clean Energy and Jobs bill was torpedoed by three Republican walkouts to prevent a quorum and vote, Governor Brown issued an executive order in 2021 which will cut state GHG emissions by even more than the legislation Republicans scuttled would have.
Most recently, the Inslee administration in Washington State has finally passed significant legislation now that the Democrats control both houses of the State legislature.
Developing Economies Must Develop Differently
If they are able to sell emission reduction credits to developing countries, LDCs will discover that even though they have more lenient emission caps due to their lesser responsibility and capability, their best route to development is not fossil fuel dependent.
The whole point of the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework developed by EcoEquity in consultation with NGOs from the global south is to prevent climate change without denying anyone the opportunity to achieve economic development by creating incentives so LDCs will develop without depending on fossil fuels.
The problem is not that we do not know what the solution looks like.
The problem is not that we must hang our hopes on invention of some miraculous new technology like carbon capture or cold fusion.
The problem is overcoming the political obstacles that stand in our way to launching the program just outlined.
What Are Those Obstacles?
1. The fossil fuel industry has been the most powerful industry in the world for over a hundred years – dominating domestic energy policy, and exerting great influence over foreign policy as well. The fossil fuel industry will lose a great deal of wealth if most of the carbon it owns is left in the ground, as it must be if we are to avoid triggering irreversible climate change. Which means the fossil fuel industry has everything to fight for, and plenty of money, political influence, and lobbying knowhow to fight with.
2. North-South Political Gridlock
Ever since the “Climate Summit” held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the major obstacle to an effective international agreement has been disagreement over who should bear the burden of preventing climate change.
Every international meeting has reaffirmed that (1) because climate change is a global commons problem it can only be solved if all countries cooperate, but (2) countries bear different responsibilities for having caused the problem, and have different capabilities for contributing to its solution.
There was long an intellectual problem as well as a political problem preventing this “agreement” from being put into action.
The intellectual problem which went unsolved for decades was how to make differential responsibility and capability operational – i.e. how to quantify these concepts. Fortunately, climate equity “experts” like those at EcoEquity have now solved this intellectual problem, and national “fair shares” of global emission reductions can now be easily calculated. See the “climate equity calculator” at www.ecoequity.org.
Of course that doesn’t solve the political problem, which is convincing countries they must do their fair share…. And that is one of the difficult tasks that remains for your generation to tackle.
But isn’t China now the problem?
Let me illustrate by rebutting one popular myth, namely that the big problem is China, which has now passed the US in annual greenhouse gas emissions. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Only two countries were responsible for more than 10% of global carbon emissions in 2015 -China was responsible for 30% and the US was responsible for 15%. So yes, China emitted more in 2015 than the US.
China vs. the United States
But the population of the US was only 325 million in 2015, and the population of China was 1.4 billion – more than four times as large!
The relevant metric when thinking about who is responsible for creating the problem is emissions per capita, which in 2015 was only 7.7 tons in China, while it was 16.1 tons in the US.
Moreover, since greenhouse gases can remain in the upper atmosphere for over a hundred years, what produces climate change is cumulative emissions. If we compare cumulative emissions from 1970–2013, the US ranks first, the countries that now comprise the European Union rank second, and China is a distant third — even though China has a much larger population than either the US or the EU.
US pledge vs. the Chinese pledge
The US “fair share” of emission reductions by 2030 compared to emissions in 2009 is based on US historic responsibility for cumulative emissions, and how wealthy the US is compared to other countries.
The US “fair share” is 14 billion metric tons, which can be divided into two parts: The reductions the US should do domestically — 5 billion metric tons. And the reductions the US should pay for to reduce in other countries since it would be cheaper than reducing them domestically — 9 billion metric tons.
At the Paris meetings in 2015 the US pledge to take responsibility for reductions in GHG emissions fell far short of our fair share.
In Paris the Chinese pledged to reduce emissions domestically by their full fair share!
US emission trajectory
China emission trajectory
Good News and Bad News
The pledges from most LDCs are the good news because they have pledged to do their fair share, and if MDCs would do likewise we would be well on our way to a global emission path that reduces the risk of cataclysmic climate change to an acceptable level.
The bad news is that almost all MDCs have not pledged to take responsibility for their fair shares, including the latest pledge from the Biden administration even if the US is no longer a “rogue climate state” as it was under President Trump for the last four years. However, there may be a silver lining.
For the most part MDCs have pledged to reduce their domestic emissions sufficiently – their pledges are close to their dotted green lines. The problem is that MDCs’ greater responsibility and capability requires them to pay for more emission reduction than they can reasonably accomplish domestically.
Fortunately this can be accomplished – MDCs can reach their blue lines -at a reasonable cost if sources in MDCs purchase CERs from sources in LDCs, or alternatively if MDCs agree to finance sufficient reductions in LDCs. A recent study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts estimates the cost for the US would be roughly 1.5% of GDP, which is far less than the 3.5% of GDP we currently spend on the military.
The challenge for your generation
The key to overcoming the immense obstacles to secure necessary international cooperation, launch GNDs in the MDCs, and promote economic development powered by renewable energy in LDCs is to build a massive global climate movement.
To overcome political gridlock and defeat the fossil fuel lobby may well require a climate movement that is broader, stronger, and more strategically adroit than any previous progressive movement in human history… Which, in short, is the challenge your generation now faces.
Climate Change and System Change: A Word
The Left does a marvelous job of explaining all the ways in which capitalism makes our economies prone to causing climate change, as well as other kinds of environmental destruction.
I should know… I’ve contributed a great deal to this literature myself!
And there is good reason to believe that at least some versions of an alternative to capitalism would no longer be environmentally unsustainable, but instead protect the environment so future generations enjoy living standards and environmental “amenities” even greater than we enjoy today.
I have worked for decades to ensure that what economists call externalities would be fully accounted for during annual participatory planning, and that a long-run environmental planning procedure would adequately protect future generations from unsustainable environmental practices in the post-capitalist model known as a participatory economy.
Facing Up to the Sober Truth
BUT… unless we take adequate measures to prevent cataclysmic climate change in the next two decades, it may well be too late.
AND unfortunately, it is unrealistic to believe that anti-capitalist movements will be strong enough, soon enough, in enough countries in time to do that.
And that is why “system change” cannot be our answer to
HOWEVER, we are not doomed yet! Fortunately, there is still enough time to prevent cataclysmic climate change even while capitalism persists. But only if we manage to replace Fossil-fuel-estan capitalism with Renew-conserveestan capitalism… and only if we do this starting NOW!
Appendix: Carbon tax, Tradable Permit, Offset
A carbon tax charges emitters $x per metric ton of carbon emitted. What is done with the revenue depends on the program.
A tradable permit program sets a limit of Y metric tons of carbon which can be emitted by “covered” sources, and requires any “covered” source emitting z metric tons to own z permits. The Y permits can be sold at an auction, or given out for free, or a combination of the two depending on the program. What is done with revenues from any permits sold at auction, and who gets permits free of charge depends on the program. “Tradable” means that whoever has a permit is free to trade it later to anyone else who wants to buy it from them, in what is called an “open permit market.”
In its most common form a carbon offset is something which private parties can buy should they so choose, to pay for the damage their own behavior causes because it emits CO2. Example: When you fly on an airplane you can buy offsets that “pay” for the damage you cause because the plane emits CO2. You buy the offset from an entity which then uses it to finance some project designed to reduce carbon emissions, such as reforestation.
Issue 1: What is done with tax revenues? What is done with the revenue from any permits auctioned off, or any payments for offsets?
Issue 2: What activity is covered? If not all, which emitters must pay a tax, or own a permit? For what activities are offsets available?
Equivalence: Suppose a tax of $x per metric ton of CO2 reduces emissions by an amount leaving Y metric tons in total emitted. In theory, the exact same thing would happen if Y permits were auctioned off.
How Effective any program is depends on how many tons continue to be emitted… period.
How Equitable any program is depend on: (a) How carbon intensive one’s consumption is. Fact: Poor people tend to spend a higher percentage of their income on carbon intensive activity — putting gas in their cars and heating their homes — so carbon taxes and permit programs tend to be “regressive.” And (b) what measures are taken to make the program more fair – for example, rebating poorer households from the revenues collected from either carbon taxes or auctioned permits.
If all sources are covered by a program, any carbon tax, or permit program where permits are tradable will be Efficient. And any alternative program, such as mandated reductions in emissions, will be demonstrably less efficient.
The Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation’s working papers series, mέta Working Papers, publishes peer-reviewed interdisciplinary research that explicitly or implicitly explores aspects of our liminal times, of our transition towards postcapitalist futures — be they dystopian or utopian, or anything in between. We are particularly interested in the exposure of academic works-in-progress to an audience of postcapitalism-oriented thinkers.
mέta Working Papers welcomes solicited and unsolicited papers in English, Greek, or preferably both, on aspects of the nascent postcapitalist era and follows a single-blind peer review process. The Papers are on-line open-access publications under the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND license. An indicative word count would be around 3.500-7.000 words. Our non-binding suggestion for references is the Chicago Style system, either notes+bibliography or author-date. Submissions must include an abstract. Authors must include a biographical note of 60-100 words. The editorial team maintains final discretion over publication of all content. Publication does not entail an endorsement of mέta Working Papers’ contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and mέta cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
The mέta Working PapersBoard is as follows:
Editor: Dr Sotiris Mitralexis
Assistant Editor: Kostas Raptis
Dr Antara Haldar, University of Cambridge
Dr Kostas Kanellopoulos, University of Crete
Dr Athina Karatzogianni, University of Leicester
Dr Vasilis Kostakis, Tallinn University of Technology & Harvard University
mέta Working Papers’ series “Towards (a Better) Postcapitalism: A Handy How-To Guide” publishes solicited policy papers on aspects of how would a non-dystopian postcapitalism look like. The series focuses on three ‘pillars’:
Production | Allocation | Decision-making
i.e., how could/would postcapitalist production be like (and who would own the means of production), what shape would the allocation of goods take (and which alternatives to the market economy may be explored), and what would be the main tenets of postcapitalist democracy.
In this latest paper, Professor Robin Hahnel addresses the second pillar, ‘allocation’, as participatory planning:
Leaders at the COP26 summit have no intention of tackling the growing environmental impacts caused by their ‘defence’ spending
World leaders gathered in Glasgow last week for the COP26 summit in a bid to demonstrate how they are belatedly getting to grips with the climate crisis. Agreements to protect forests, cut carbon and methane emissions and promote green tech are all being hammered out in front of a watching world.
Western politicians, in particular, want to emerge from the summit with their green credentials burnished, proving that they have done everything in their power to prevent a future global temperature rise of more than 1.5C. They fear the verdict of unhappy electorates if they come back empty-handed.
Western armed forces are the most polluting on the planet – and the goal at COP26 is to keep that fact a closely guarded secret
Climate scientists are already doubtful whether the pledges being made go far enough, or can be implemented fast enough, to make a difference. They have warned that drastic action has to be taken by the end of this decade to avert climate catastrophe.
But the visible activity at the summit hides a much starker reality. The very nations proclaiming moral leadership in tackling the climate crisis are also the ones doing most to sabotage a meaningful agreement to reduce humanity’s global carbon footprint.
A photo from the opening of COP26 showed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit’s host, warmly greeting US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But rather than fete them, we should treat this triumvirate as the big villains of the climate talks.
Their armed forces are the most polluting on the planet – and the goal at COP26 is to keep that fact a closely guarded secret.
Hidden from view
US expenditure on its military far outstrips that of any other country – except for Israel, when measured relative to population size. Although the UK trails behind, it still has the fifth largest military budget in the world, while its arms manufacturers busily supply weapons to countries others have shunned.
Most of Europe has refused to come clean, too. France, with the continent’s most active military, reports none of its emissions.
According to research by Scientists for Global Responsibility, the UK’s military emissions were three times larger than those it reported – even after supply chains, as well as weapons and equipment production, were excluded. The military was responsible for the overwhelming majority of British government emissions.
Total emissions by the Norwegian military over the next decade will rise by 30 percent as a result of its F-35 purchases alone
And new technology, rather than turning the military green, is often making things much worse.
The latest fighter jet developed by the US, the F-35, is reported to burn 5,600 litres of fuel an hour. It would take 1,900 cars to guzzle a similar amount of fuel over the same period.
Norway, like many other countries, has been queuing up to get its hands on this new-generation jet. According to the Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen, the total emissions by the Norwegian military over the next decade will rise by 30 percent as a result of its F-35 purchases alone.
As well as discounting the environmental harm caused by military equipment procurement and supply chains, countries are also excluding the significant impacts of conflicts and wars.
Unlike the farming and logging industries, or the manufacturing industries, or the fossil fuel industries, efforts to curb the growth in military spending – let alone reverse it – are off the table at the COP26 summit.
And for that, Washington has to take the major share of the blame.
Its “defence” budget already comprises about 40 percent of the $2tn spent annually on militaries worldwide. China and Russia – ostensibly the two bogeymen of the COP26 summit – lag far behind.
The government of Boris Johnson unveiled last year what it called “the biggest programme of investment in British defence since the end of the Cold War”. Britain is no outlier. After a short-lived “peace dividend” caused by the break-up of the Soviet Union, global military expenditure has been on an almost continuous upward trend since 1998, led by the US.
Paradoxically, the upturn began about the time western politicians began paying lip service to tackling “climate change” at the Kyoto summit.
US military spending has been rising steadily since 2018. It is set to continue doing so for at least another two decades – way past the deadline set by climate scientists for turning things around.
The same global upward trend has been fed by a surge in military expenditure by Middle Eastern countries – notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE – since 2013. That appears to reflect two trends rooted in Washington’s changing approach to the region.
First, as it has withdrawn its overstretched occupation forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has increasingly outsourced its military role to wealthy client states in this oil-rich region.
And second, as Israel and the Gulf states have been encouraged to forge closer military and intelligence ties against Iran, these same Gulf states have been allowed to play military catch-up with Israel. Its famed “qualitative military edge” is being gradually eroded.
All this means that, while western politicians promise to cut emissions at COP26, they are actually busy preparing to increase those emissions out of view. Ultimately, the problem is that little can be done to green our militaries, either substantively or through a greenwashing makeover. The military’s rationale is neither to be sustainable nor to be kind to the planet.
The arms manufacturers’ business model is to offer clients – from the Pentagon to every tinpot dictator – weapons and machines that are bigger, better or faster than their competitors. Aircraft carriers must be larger. Fighter jets quicker and more agile. And missiles more destructive.
The arms manufacturers’ business model is to offer clients – from the Pentagon to every tinpot dictator – weapons and machines that are bigger, better or faster than their competitors
Consumption and competition are at the heart of the military mission, whether armies are waging war or marketing their activities as purely “defensive”.
“Security”, premised on a fear of neighbours and rivals, can never be satiated. There is always another tank, plane or anti-missile system that can be purchased to create greater “deterrence”, to protect borders more effectively, to intimidate an enemy.
And war provides even greater reasons to consume more of the planet’s finite resources and wreak yet more harm on ecosystems. Lives are taken, buildings levelled, territories contaminated.
The US and its western allies would first have to agree to relinquish their grip on the planet’s energy resources, and to give up policing the globe in the interests of their transnational corporations.
It is precisely this full-spectrum power competition – economic, ideologic and military – that propelled us into the current climate disaster. Tackling it will require looking much deeper into our priorities than any leader at COP26 appears ready to do.
mέta | Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation
Coincidences may be hilarious, or, from another point of view, revelatory. And one can never be certain it was by pure coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg decided to rebrand Facebook’s parent company as meta, giving his new venture a name almost identical to that of our mέta – the Centre for Post-Capitalist Civilization. All the more so, since he has already named “Diem” his company’s cryptocurrency in the making…
But naming disputes are for corporate-minded copyright holders. On our part, we are only delighted to stress the contrast of values and intentions brought forward by this odd similarity of brands. For Mark Zuckerberg’s “vision” validates our core argument: that a post-capitalist dystopia is emerging all around us, a state of affairs that urgently needs to be challenged by our struggles for emancipatory alternatives.
Meta’s rush to the “metaverse” phantasmagoria depicts what the newly coined term “technofeudalism” stands for: privatising, exploiting and radically enclosing the whole of our social interaction and lived experience – pushing the digital/analogue divide to the point of a class apartheid with unheard of anthropological connotations.
In that sense, we owe many thanks to Mark Zuckerberg for (unintentionally) highlighting the relevance of the post-capitalism debate. Hence, we suggest a preliminary reading/viewing list for those inclined to follow mέta’s endeavour in theory, politics and art.
Slavoj Žižek and Yanis Varoufakis on techno-feudalism:
I was interviewed on a radical podcast and we got to discussing the politics of Walking DeadTV series, especially what kind of economy and society they had after the zombies started, noting that it is no longer a capitalist world they inhabit. On the spur of the moment I summarised it with a joke:
“The zombies killed capitalism!”
That interview was considering a subject that has become quite a hot one in the comic book world: about how we can arrange things in terms of readers, money and sales, etc to help struggling comic book creators. I myself am a professional comic book writer (graphic novels if you prefer their posh term), with more than twenty books published, three of them with New Internationalist (Fight the Power, Goodbye God and Portraits of Violence). Recently there has been more talk in the graphic novel world about creators simply not being able to make ends meet. An announcement this year by the popular creator Hannah Berry, that she will no longer make any long graphic novels, has become something of a symbolic rally point for the issue. Why has she made that decision? Because she simply can’t afford to, it takes too much time for too little money:
“To make a graphic novel takes me three years of blinkered, fanatical dedication, and I realised while working on Livestock that I just can’t do it again. I’m done. I’m out. And from quiet talks with many other graphic novelists, ones whose books you know and love, I can tell you that I’m far from being the only one…This is the problem with making graphic novels in the UK today, and it’s one we need to address: the numbers do not add up.”
Now amongst the debate on such fine comic book places as Broken Frontier has been very detailed consideration of how we increase our readership, market our books better, make books that people want to buy, increase our social media presence, etc. All in order to make the numbers add up to a decent living for creators. Berry mentions that we should perhaps pressurize the government to provide more in the way of arts grants for making comics. There is certainly a case to be made for that, compared with the far higher subsidies received for other art forms. All of these are relevant. But, oddily enough, the main cause of the basic problem is rarely mentioned. And what is that? Yep, you guessed it – our old adversary that so far refuses to lie down, capitalism. Among 99% of the people talking about this the question of how the basic economic system affects comic book creators hardly raises its head.
Most of the views and discussions I have seen about the economy of comics are based on the idea that what we need is more READERS. I want to say something quite radical: actually we have enough readers already. What we lack is PROFIT. And by that I do not mean therefore we need to get more profit. What I mean is that the problem is the very idea of profit itself. The need, the compulsion, to make profit within a capitalist style economy. That’s our real problem. At the very least there should be an awareness that this is the underlaying cause.
This is why I say it’s the main problem: because in a capitalist economy the main focus is on making profit. Not on making things people want or need. And it’s a system based on making profit which is controlled by a tiny elite of people who have a huge influence on what gets made. So, in capitalist economy human creative energy – in the arts, sciences, education, everything – is focused on what will make a profit. So, if some good comic does not sell enough then it does not make enough profit and it’s cancelled. Or some good idea never gets made in the first place because the publisher knows that it probably won’t sell enough, it won’t make enough profit. They would like to publish it but they can’t. The ‘economic reality’ stops them. How many of us comic book creators have heard that from publishers? How many of us have therefore had our great ideas wither on the vine? How many editors and publishers have regretted being chained to that situation too?
So, if this profit obsession is such a barrier to our creativity, in many fields, why don’t we get rid of it? Why not set up another, better system? Some think because we can’t. We are not capable of any system other than ‘the Big C’. I don’t have space to go into that now, perhaps in another article. So, for now, let’s presume that we CAN come up with a better, alternative system. Probably one that draws on elements of socialism, anarchism and environmentalism. Let’s just call it a ‘Better Economic and Social System’ (BESS). In a BESS private profit will not be the main focus. Instead we will focus all of our energies towards creating good societies, towards creating a sense of well-being, healthy lifestyles, environmentally friendly policies, a good education etc – all the things that we human beings need for a decent life. And art is part of that. Music is part of that. Dance is part of that. And comics are part of that. So, in a BESS what will matter is not ‘Will this comic make enough profit?’, but the far better questions of: ‘Is this a good comic? Is it interesting? Is it funny? Is it moving?’. When those are the criteria comics will flourish far more than now, when the poison of profit no longer taints our efforts.
There is also the issue of WHO decides. In the Big C that tiny elite of the power get to decide most of what happens in our economy. In a BESS decisions about what gets made and how we make it, and how we use our resources, will be made by people in general – by us all, as equals, working together in some kind of local democratic council type groups. Again, I’ve no space here to say much more about how they would work. Anyone interested to consider it more can email me. Or check out the various approaches to organising a better society than can be found in books or online, such as the ‘parecon’ system or the ‘anarchism 101’ pages at The Anarchist Library. But, basically, we comic book folk could bring our ideas to the arts council of our area and try to persuade them that the book is interesting. It won’t be some elite group of councillors who decides – that would be little better than things are now when we have to supplicate ourselves to publishers. It’s a council, or collective or community that WE are also equal members of, and that decides things in a truly democratic way with real processes for bringing up complaints and appeals. How much better that would be than now, were creators get ideas rejected mostly on the grounds of low profit potential, and with absolutely no process in place to challenge that decision.
I said we have enough readers. A study of facebook found that 24 million Americans have noted ‘comics’ as an area of interest on their accounts. According to data on the Statista Portal, around 28% of 8 to 16 year olds in the UK regularly read comics. No one seems to be sure about the figure for adult readers in the UK, but, at a guess, I would say it may be around the same figure as the 4% of the population that regularly attends the opera. What this means is that we already have enough people interested to read comics. Certainly enough to influence those local arts groups in a BESS that comics are something worth focusing some of our limited resources into. If there are, say, just 1000 people interested to read your comics that’s plenty – that’s one thousand real flesh and blood people, all of who matter, all of whom are part of society and get a say in how it’s run. We already have enough people interested in comics to allow for many, many comics to be given the backing of those arts councils up and down the country. And by backing I mean money, yes. In a BESS meaning some kind of credits for ‘useful work done for the community’. Not a grant, but the same kind of credits received for their useful contribution by the teacher, the street sweeper, the brain surgeon. Credits that can be spent on the things we all need for a decent, healthy, happy life. In such a system the numbers WILL add up. Not by magic, but by organising things well, according to what we want, need, value, and are prepared to work for. Which is not what happens under capitalism.
Lastly, in a BESS, it is highly likely that that amount of readers of comics will go up. Because there will also be less of a barrier of having to buy comics. Many of those council backed comics that we creators would make would be available for free, just like the local play park is free. So, many more readers will check them out. Or readers would ‘pay’ some allotted credit for them, which would probably be small amount, simply deducted from their total credit balance. In the same way they pay for milk or a new pair of shoes. And, as its not a capitalist profit based system, creators would not get that credit, direct from reader to creator, or some % of it via a publisher. Creators, like everyone, receive their collectively agreed on level of credits via the local council (that they are a full and equal member of, remember) for their work. So, they would not receive 100 times more credits if their book is read by 100,000 people instead of 1,000. So, that would free us from the slavery of obsessing with numbers, to the shallow ‘sell, sell, sell,’ mentality of capitalism. And there would be far less of a problem of the silly desire to become ‘rich and famous’ too. We would not need either in order to feel we are doing something worthwhile. The focus would be on something very simple, but rather healthy: on making good comics that people value. Just that. And since the horrible profit issue would be out of the way we would all be more free to focus on experimenting, flexing our artistic muscles, trying new ideas. Or simply making good films, good music, good comics.
So, if brain dead zombies can end capitalism, so can we. And since we lovely humans are not brain dead (most of us, anyway), we should be capable of replacing it with something that works better – for the arts, for the sciences, for education, for the environment, for us all.
No Bosses? I’m In
by Bertrand Bob Guevara
I have seen the future of economics and it is no fucking bosses. No profits. No markets. No hierarchical division of labor. In this future, people collectively, freely, justly, rationally produce for one another. Workers and consumers minimize waste, maximize human fulfillment, and escape class division. There is equity for all, dignity for all. Everyone lives in accord with nature. We become our most caring thoughtful selves, moved by feelings of love. The muse wakes us all. Who wouldn’t want no more crazy sorrow? No more cruel leaders or leaders who turn cruel? Many corporate fools and fanatics wouldn’t want that. Many masters of war wouldn’t want that. Too bad for them. I am for new economics for a better world. What about you?
Sure, you are probably for new economics too. Why else would you read this review? No more grey flannel bosses. No more blood drenched profits. No more malicious markets. But wipe away bosses, profits, markets, and corporations, and what’s left? A humungous vacuum. Nature abhors that. So, what would fill it?
When movements overcome the past, sometimes they get too much nothing. They kick up noise and turmoil. The dust settles. They are back where they came from. Other times when movements overcome the past, they cause big change. The dust settles. They suffer a new boss in place of the old boss.
The book, No Bosses, A New Economy for a Better World describes how movements might escape class rule smartly, equitably, sustainably, and with dignity for all. No Bosses’ introduction savages existing relations. Its opening chapter sets out positive values to use to orient and judge economics. Subsequent chapters answer who owns what, who decides what, who does what, who earns what, and who allocates what. They propose new institutions wherein we decide our own lives with equity, solidarity, and dignity for all. Finally, two concluding chapters discuss winning a new economy and offer a bit of personal and social context for the whole perspective.
No Bosses doesn’t paint a full picture of future daily life. It doesn’t speculate on second, third, or fourth order details. It doesn’t dictate how long future people will choose to work each day, precisely how they will conduct their personal relations, or even what they will individually or collectively consume.No Bosses doesn’t conjure up electric car designs. It doesn’t celebrate bio chemically improved health care. It doesn’t predict much less dictate contingent future circumstances.
No Bosses’ agenda is instead simple and even elegant. Passionate indignation pursuing truth. Perceive a world where people freely decide and implement their own life choices with no bosses who severely impose inequality, enforce anti-sociality, and destroy the very planet our lives depend on.
So what new features does No Bosses propose?
A productive commons from which we all borrow to produce things socially desired.
Workers and consumers self managed councils where we cooperatively decide our economic lives.
Jobs and work where we are all empowered to participate in decision making with confidence, skills, and knowledge commensurate with informed, effective, choices.
Life in which all who work get a share of the social product based on how long, how hard, and the onerousness of our socially valued work. And where we who can’t work get a full income for being alive.
And finally, what No Bosses calls participatory planning, or a collective, decentralized, cooperative, self managed means for us to collectively determine economic inputs and outputs.
No Bosses lays bear each of these five proposed defining features’ logic. It reports each of these features’ implications for individuals, for groups, and for our social and natural surroundings. And finally, No Bosses addresses predictable concerns about each of the proposed features.
No Bosses is not a book about replacing bad people in high positions. It is not a book about reducing corruption. It is not a book about bandaging gushers of pain.
No Bosses is a book about eliminating high positions. It is a book about producing integrity. It is a book about removing the causes of gushers of pain and implementing instead fields of dignity and fulfillment.
No Bosses is a book about economic and social revolution. It is a book about after our ship comes in.
No Bosses is timely not because we are going to win our new world overnight, but because to win it as early as our accumulated past history now permits, we will have to self-consciously work towards it, and we will have to do so with clarity as well as openness to learning our way as we go.
The world is bleeding. All too many people passively view the rivers of blood and barely blink. All too many people are rendered passive by hopelessness or habit. There is too little shared passionate indignation. Too much atomized pain and anger. And even people who courageously and collectively resist passivity rarely contemplate actually winning a wholly new economy in a wholly better world. There is too little audacity. Yet we not only only need indignant outraged vision of a better world to collectively rise up against climate change, racism, misogyny, violence in all forms, and an economics built on bosses. We need indignant outraged vision of a better world to sustain hope, orientation, and confident commitment, and even to avoid savaging ourselves in circular firing squads. Can we muster loving, honest, truthful hope, orientation, and commitment against a slippery slope to suicide? Can we muster it to reverse our suicidal slide? Can we muster it to chart a path to a better world?
So, does No Bosses deliver? Is its writing sufficiently clear and concise, much less poetic—and is it appropriately passionate? No Bosses shouts out for more effort, more experimentation, and especially more program and struggle that knows where it wants to wind up. To dream together. But there is a rub.
Once a book is read, what happens? For a book like No Bosses, tallies of sales mean nothing. Volume of pages read mean little. A book like this doesn’t earn points for entertaining. It doesn’t even earn points for enlightening. What does reading it engender? That is the question. Not just to understand, but to affect. That is the purpose.
Will No Bosses help foster constructive, respectful, mutual movement relations that steadily grow and enrich activism and organizing? It depends in part on how many read it, but even more so, it depends on what the people who read it then do with what they have read. Truth needs action needs truth.
Ten thousand readers who forget it all a month later? Little to celebrate. Five readers who use the lessons conveyed for months and years. Much to celebrate. The appropriate metric to assess a social change book (speech, article, or event), is not sales revenues. It is not even smiles while reading. It is what comes after readers set aside the book (speech, article, or event).
So I Bertrand Bob Guevara review No Bosses and give it my blessing, not as a formal exercise, not to cleverly sing praises, not to earn a paycheck, not to expand a resume. I review it in hopes you who are reading these words will next read No Bosses, and will then think on, refine, enrich, and correct its words, and let others into your reading and yourselves into their’s—to breathe shared life into the vision.
Bertrand (Russell), Bob (Dylan), and Che (Guevara) did not write this review but they did write large parts of the history and culture leading toward its vision and to my choosing to write it. Their actions, ideas, and words did contribute to the contents of the vision that No Bosses presents.
Authors matter. I am an author. So what? Mentors, friends, partners, lovers, and mostly readers matter more.
I said that. And, dear reader, what do you say? That is what now matters.
And yes, I am Michael Albert, an aspirant to a new economy for a better world who in a fit of frenzy while awaiting No Bosses publication happened to imagine the sentiments offered in this review.
Audacious? Maybe. Desperate? For sure. We inhabit a world at a crossroads. There is a dream we ought not defer.
And so here I am. Younger once. Older than that now. Trying hard to advance a vision summarized as No Bosses. You bet I am. Why wouldn’t I? How about you?
‘Shouldn’t everyone receive a stake in society’s wealth? Could we create a fairer world by granting a guaranteed income to all? What would this mean for our health, wealth and happiness?’
The Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation, mέta, organised on Tuesday 21 September 2021 a discussion between Guy Standing and Yanis Varoufakis on the necessity of Basic Income – And How We Can Make It Happen. Moderation: Sotiris Mitralexis. The event was co-organised by mέta, Athens’ Numismatic Museum and Papasotiriou Publishing, apropos the publication of Guy Standing’s book ‘Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen’ in Greek (Papasotiriou 2021, foreword by Yanis Varoufakis). You can watch the video here – in English, with Greek subtitles.
From 12 to 22 July 2021, after months of confinement and enforced cultural ‘eclipse’, mέta set up a feast on the road with six stops throughout Greece: Athens, Patras, Ioannina, Kavala, Thessaloniki and Volos; our ‘boulouki’, or mέta-troupe.
Merging stand-up comedy with traditional music made otherwise, as well as ‘Karagiozis’ shadow theater with biting bits on current affairs, our ‘boulouki’ (troupe) attempted to reclaim the public square in times of crisis and the privatisation of our lives via lockdown, with free admission to our celebration. We have tried, in a sense, to reassemble the (physical, real) public space from the debris left by the pandemic and the government’s policies. At the same time, if there is one field that has been hit harder than any other during the pandemic, this is the artistic space, the cultural space. Artists have been declared more or less ‘superfluous’, their activity something like a ‘hobby’. Therefore, the capacity to professionally collaborate with distinguished artists from different backgrounds — music (Konstandis Pistiolis), stand-up comedy (Ira Katsouda and Dimitra Nikitea), traditional shadow theatre with a twist (Thomas Agrafiotis) — was also one of the tools of our ‘boulouki’, on a tour around Greece and not confined to Athens, our all-consuming capital.
The outcome exceeded our expectations: our artists gave their best, and the reception of our ‘boulouki’ by (literally) thousands of citizens all over Greece –who were clearly informed at the beginning of the event about the purposes of mέta and its connection to MeRA25– was touching. Our mέta-boulouki completed its tour of six stations all over Greece, organised a feast for every citizen with free entrance to the public, collective space that we were deprived of. Thomas Agrafiotis, Dimitra Nikitea, Ira Katsouda and Konstandis Pistiolis starred in a ‘boulouki’ of music, laughter, critical gaze, and re-examination of the tradition of our country in a future-oriented perspective. We warmly thank the artists, those who supported and helped us, as well as all those who accepted our invitation and participated in our celebration. There is much more to come!
Credits: Filming & Directing: George Moustakis // Additional shots: Dimitris Zografakis // Boulouki-performers: Kostandis Pistiolis: Singing, winds, strings, percussions, live looping //Ira Katsouda, Dimitra Nikitea: Stand up comedy // Thomas Agrafiotis: Shadow Theatre; Assistant: Anna Sakaretsanou // Nikos Spyropoulos: Sound Recording // Nikos Christogiannopoulos: Assistant Sound Engineer // Kostis Marangos: Lightning Designing // Miltos Lyssikatos: Lights Operator // ‘Boulouki’ production: Nikos Kanarelis: Cultural Director // Sotiris Mitralexis: Academic Director // Mariza Kourtikaki: tour manager-production manager // Hara Ioannou: Scenography and poster design // Kostas Raptis: Press Officer // Georgia Zoupa: Assistant Contact Person // Arianna Vagourdi, Doris Hakim: Secretarial Support // We are profoundly grateful to the volunteers who supported us in all cities. Their invaluable help was of essence to the successful outcome we all enjoyed. // mέta productions.