2nd Nov, 2019
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Claps of Thunder: Disaster Communism, Extinction Capitalism and How to Survive Tomorrow
7th to 10th NOVEMBER 2019 @SOAS, RUSSELL SQUARE, CENTRAL LONDON
Humanity faces an unprecedented crisis in the conditions for its long-term survival. The planet has warmed before, but never this fast. Mass extinction is a regular geological event, but it is now happening faster than at any time since the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction: a megaphase crisis in microphase time. And humanity has never before faced the comprehensive exhaustion of top-soil fecundity.
The emerging forms of authoritarian reaction are characteristically denialist about this catastrophe, from Trump’s Sinophobic conspiracism to Bolsonaro’s efforts to extirpate the landless workers’ movement. But the dominant response of fossil fuel giants is that of the majority of capitalist sectors and liberal states: to embrace ‘green’ capitalism, carbon markets, carbon taxes, and green technologies, whose total effect is to lock in carbon emissions. The Pentagon positions itself as an ally against climate change while securing the conditions for the efficient exploitation of oil and gas concealed under thawing Arctic ice. Environmental movements have coalesced and dispersed since the Seventies, but have hitherto lacked the structural, disruptive capacity, and perhaps also the strategy, to achieve the depth and scale of social transformation necessary to slam on the brakes of the crisis.
The roots of this ongoing disaster are social. The very evolution of fossil fuel use is linked a growth paradigm based upon the imperatives of capitalist accumulation ever since the beginning of the ‘industrial revolution.’ Advocates of ‘green capitalism’ have failed to offer a plausible solution to a catastrophe that is more imminent than ever. Any attempt to avert climate change requires a mobilisation of resources and a profound change in production and consumption forms that are incompatible with capitalist social relations of production. But even if such an attempt is launched tomorrow, we are likely to face a long-lasting legacy of damages to the earth system.
How does communism fare in a world thus despoiled? What alternatives to the various miserable endgames mapped out for us by capital can Marxists envision? What new configurations of agency, strategy and vision are necessary for human emancipation and survival? Beyond denialism, how do we avert the potential for new climate-driven security regimes, eco-Malthusian crackdowns on the poor, and murderous eco-fascism?