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(also available at Firedoglake and at VOTS)

News portion: (Claremont, California, 2/15/14): At about 3pm yesterday at Pitzer College in Claremont local students from the Claremont Colleges performed a brief piece of street theater and a short demonstration intended to promote a divestment campaign.  The divestment campaign was aimed at requesting of Pitzer College that it divest its investment portfolio from fossil fuel stocks.

In the street theater presentation, students were arranged in a "puddle" wearing black, and a "pipeline" was extended into a local administration building so that it created a "picture" of an oil spill.  Some of the students forming the "puddle" briefly stood up to explain the divestment cause.  Afterward some Claremont Colleges faculty spoke to the small audience which attended the street theater.

Analysis: Events like this are always great.  It doesn't matter how many people are in attendance -- practice makes perfect.

To argue that the student divestment movement will fail in its stated goals would be beside the point.  As long as students are being told that "there is no alternative" to capitalism, and specifically to a capitalist system that runs a fossil-fuel-burning infrastructure, they should continue to ask (with proactive naivete) why capitalism can't be any nicer than it currently is.  If students are told (as one of the faculty speakers told them yesterday) that Pitzer should be able to divest from fossil fuel stocks without seriously endangering its net worth, then they should continue to demand just that.  Whether or not it's really possible is beside the point.

The excuse that is commonly used by colleges to dodge the divestment movement (I think this is the excuse the president of nearby Pomona College gave) is that the pension funds are composed of all sorts of stocks mixed together, and to get out of the ones that mix together fossil-fuel stocks would be too tough a financial risk for a college.  Capital as a whole, then, might be too united to allow colleges to divest from its fossil-fuel sector.  So when the colleges get back to the divestment movement and say, "sorry, we can't divest because, y'know, capitalism," the students comprising the divestment movement will then be freed to ask, with the same proactive naivete, "so why can't we have an alternative to capitalism?"

In the end, the "we can't divest" position is a position that says "all we can do is adapt to global warming."  It's a very dangerous position, because only adapting to global warming while fossil fuel burning rages unchecked is a fool's errand.

We live in a society of money, governed by the law of value.  Everything and everyone has a price, and the "real owners of this country" (see e.g. this George Carlin routine) look at you as a catalyst for their profits.  Worse, they look at the environment as a "free gift,' which they take as they please when it benefits them and pollute as they please when to do otherwise would mean taking a loss.  And they'll probably continue to exploit this "free gift" regardless of how much damage it does to planet Earth, and it's probably going to do a ton of damage before it's finished.  That's what the law of value, and the society of money, and capitalism, are about.

Students are, in fact, in the colleges and universities today because of this law of value -- the possession of a bachelor's degree increases the "value" of their labor-power and so they can use said degrees to earn higher wages.  Even so, people are not mere slaves of this law of value -- not even college students, who even despite their lack of value are still capable of mounting a divestment campaign!  We should encourage this.

The law of value, in turn, determines that the world's current oil and coal and tar sands reserves constitute "assets" with so many trillions of dollars worth of "value."  Or at least this is what is in the minds of the world's possessors of oil rights, and of their rich friends.  It is unlikely that capital-as-a-whole will give up this "value" -- remember, everyone, that a big, nasty war was fought because America's slaves constituted too much "value" for the plantation aristocracies to give up the security state which protected slavery.  So, yeah, if the divestment campaign notches a victory, good for it.  The students will have achieved a major violation of the law of value.  And if it doesn't, something else will be on the menu.  Go students!


Pitzer Divestment campaign's Facebook page

Pitzer defers divestment decision (10/12/13)

piece in "Seersucker" on the college divestment movement

Pomona College opts not to divest -- piece from "The Student Life."

Harvard and Brown were wrong to reject calls to divest from fossil fuels

From Occupy to Climate Justice: Merging Economic Justice and Climate Action

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Comment Preferences

  •  I will add further links to the list (15+ / 0-)

    about student campaigns to divest colleges from fossil-fuel investment.

    "If you sing a song a day/ You will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

    by Cassiodorus on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 08:14:07 AM PST

  •  we are ATMs for the corporatists (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, Glen The Plumber

    they take our meager earnings and they foist the costs for their profiteering onto us

    all with the complicity of our so-called leaders

    democratic neoliberals and gop economic libertarians fron the gop are just corporatists with different labels

    i think we must begin DEMANDING that leaders like obama answer questions about their fossil fuel policies

    first, do you intend to keep any fossil fuel in the ground or have you given carte blanche to big oil to extract and sell anything it can reach?

    second, if your policy is that fossil fuel extraction and burning will continue unabated, how much ghg emissions will that cause and what are the expected climate impacts of those emissions and of your policy?

    the questions can be better worded but those are the questions that must be asked, insistently and incessantly

    evetything else is evasion and obfuscation

    what is your policy on fossil fuel extraction and consumption and what are the climate effects of that policy?

    i'm looking at you, president obama

    •  The administration's policy in this regard... (3+ / 0-) a mishmash of good and bad, exactly what's to be expected with the "all of the above" approach that is supposedly so smart but, in fact, keeps us on the same lethal path.

      Emissions controls and renewables-supporting policies backed by the administration are good. But while the Obama White House would never actually intone the "drill, drill, drill," "dig, dig, dig," "burn, burn, burn" mantra of the Republicans, the actual policies are exactly that.

      But before capitalists get all the blame, it's worth remembering that most socialists (that is, nations and individuals who called themselves socialists) have until recently been huge mockers of environmental concerns and backers of policies as devastating as anything the Kochs endorse and promoted.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:33:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Socialists" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        have been using "socialism" as a public-relations message to promote either 1) social democracy (now in extra-diluted form to keep up with the profit demands of multinational corporations) or 2) mercantilism (the actual policy of the so-called "Communist bloc" -- see e.g. Immanuel Wallerstein's pronouncements on Soviet history as a history of "mercantilistic semi-withdrawal from the capitalist world-system."

        Actual socialism is something different.

        "If you sing a song a day/ You will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

        by Cassiodorus on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:41:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, I am quite familiar with the... (0+ / 0-)

 for "actual socialism" and agree that we've not seen it, which is why I said those calling themselves socialist. However, actual socialists I know and have known have only recently shown that policies they would support in this matter would be much of an improvement over that we already have in place. Until recently, in this arena, the only proposed change was one of ownership, red but not green.  

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:50:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's ignoring a lot of voices (0+ / 0-)

            who self-identify with the socialist movement.

            Until recently, in this arena, the only proposed change was one of ownership, red but not green.  
            If you selectively eliminate entire swaths of the movement from the discussion, I suppose your statement would make sense to some. Its as if you're saying capitalists on the left are more ecological than socialists.

            You know that there is a divide in socialism between the authoritarians and anti-authoritarians, and that a good many socialists don't consider the Leninist inspired "socialist" states to represent real socialism, but are better described as state capitalism, all of which was accurately predicted by Bakunin back in the 1860s.

            People like Bookchin (on the anti-statist side) whose first book on ecology came out before Silent Spring, have been writing about social ecology for decades.

            "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

            by ZhenRen on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 12:29:06 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  As you know, Bookchin was an outlier within... (0+ / 0-)

              ...the socialist movement (I am not using the term "outlier" as a perjorative). Even by anti-authoritarians, he was criticized in his own time for his environmental stances. The Leninists and neo-Leninists, of course, had a field day with him.  My point is that a large percentage of the people calling themselves socialists, with the exception of some outliers, have, until relatively recently, been extremely skeptical not merely of bourgeois environmentalism, as would be entirely expected, but with the whole concept of environmental advocacy. Even among socialist greens or green socialists, a small portion of people who call themselves socialists, Bookchin has been criticized.

              I'm not arguing here whether his take or theirs is accurate. My point is that, again until relatively recently, the views expressed by him and them on matters of environment/ecology have not been widely accepted among self-identified socialists. The fact that some socialists have for a long time been on the spearpoint of the matter does not defeat my argument. I was an eco-socialist before the term was invented. There have never been that many of us although there are more now.

              Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

              by Meteor Blades on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 12:58:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Read this, and I think you might change your mind (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Meteor Blades

       least, to some degree. Anarchism and ecology have strong historical connections and antecedents. By the way, if anyone wants to just skim this long post, go to the sections in BOLD and then if still interested read it all, including the links.

                All anarchists are considered "outliers" to Marxist oriented socialists, a movement which has written quite a large amount in the way of misinformation about anarchist theory and tactics, starting with the infamous debate between Proudhon, Bakunin, and Marx, which has been ongoing ever since.

                I think you probably are exposed to primarily Marxists, who tend to think they know more about anarchism than anarchists (as did Marx himself), but rarely venture outside of their own milieu to read enough for a good sense of the anarchist movement. Some even call themselves anarchists, but largely bring into the anarchist movement Marxist perspectives, thinking it unquestioningly transferable to anarchist theory.

                Within anarchist circles and writings I've read, I have not seen this criticism of environmentalism, unless one conflates criticism of reformist tactics of status quo supporting environmentalists as criticism of the very concept of environmentalism. Anarchists criticize capitalism and those who continue to support the capitalist system as contributing to the problem, but that isn't criticism of environmentalism.

                I've seen quite a bit of reference to early writers of the 19th century as having been seminal in the anarchist environmental movement, especially Reclus. And since the 60s, I see a pretty good representation of anarchism in the environmental movement. I suspect you're assuming the debates you've seen in Marxist circles are the same, or have the same degree of influence, in anarchist circles. Anarchists debate everything 'till the cows come home, but that is par for the course.

                In my reading, Bookchin is rather frequently used as a reference, and I've noticed his criticisms of the contemporary anarchist movement (while still essentially advocating anarchism), but I don't see him viewed, in terms of ecological views, as an outlier among anarchists. Anarchists argue a lot over approaches, but that disagreement should not be taken as rejection of an entire concept like environmentalism.

                And Bookchin was not by any means the only one. One early influence in ecology that comes to mind is Élisée Reclus, (1830 - 1905) who is often quoted and used as a source in anarchist writing. His naturialism is well known. And he dates back to the 19th century. His colleague Kropotkin, as well, was a naturalist.

                From the wiki article:

                Reclus advocated nature conservation and opposed meat-eating and cruelty to animals. He was a vegetarian.[9] As a result, his ideas are seen by some historians as anticipating the modern social ecology and animal rights movements.[10]
                And anarcho-naturism has been around for a long while, including anarchist Spain during the collectives established during the revolutionary period.

                So, with this in mind as my general impression, I checked some sources. Here's what Ian McKay and the Anarchist FAQ working group say:


                Anarchists have been at the forefront of ecological thinking and the green movement for decades. This is unsurprisingly, as many key concepts of anarchism are also key concepts in ecological thought. In addition, the ecological implications of many anarchist ideas (such as decentralisation, integration of industry and agriculture, and so forth) has meant that anarchists have quickly recognised the importance of ecological movements and ideas.
                Here there is no hint of qualms with Bookchin:
                Murray Bookchin in particular has placed anarchist ideas at the centre of green debate as well as bringing out the links anarchism has with ecological thinking. His eco-anarchism (which he called social ecology) was based on emphasising the social nature of the ecological problems we face. In such classic works as Post-Scarcity Anarchism, Toward an Ecological Society and The Ecology of Freedom he has consistently argued that humanity's domination of nature is the result of domination within humanity itself.
                In the FAQ it is claimed anarchism had early seminal ideas of of environmentalism going back to Proudhon:
                However, anarchism has always had an ecological dimension. As Peter Marshall notes in his extensive overview of ecological thought, ecologists "find in Proudhon two of their most cherished social principles: federalism and decentralisation." He "stands as an important forerunner of the modern ecological movement for his stress on the close communion between humanity and nature, for his belief in natural justice, for his doctrine of federalism and for his insight that liberty is the mother and not the daughter of order." [Nature's Web, p. 307 and p. 308] For Proudhon, a key problem was that people viewed the land as "something which enables them to levy a certain revenue each year. Gone is the deep feeling for nature." People "no longer love the soil. Landowners sell it, lease it, divide it into shares, prostitute it, bargain with it and treat it as an object of speculation. Farmers torture it, violate it, exhaust it and sacrifice it to their impatient desire for gain. They never become one with it." We "have lost our feeling for nature." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 261]
                And the FAQ, too, mentions Kropotkin (who was a naturalist, a geologist, and a biologist):
                Other precursors of eco-anarchism can be found in Peter Kropotkin's writings. For example, in his classic work Fields, Factories and Workshops, Kropotkin argued the case for "small is beautiful" 70 years before E. F. Schumacher coined the phase, advocating "a harmonious balance between agriculture and industry. Instead of the concentration of large factories in cities, he called for economic as well as social decentralisation, believing that diversity is the best way to organise production by mutual co-operation. He favoured the scattering of industry throughout the country and the integration of industry and agriculture at the local level." His vision of a decentralised commonwealth based on an integration of agriculture and industry as well as manual and intellectual work has obvious parallels with much modern green thought, as does his stress on the need for appropriate levels of technology and his recognition that the capitalist market distorts the development, size and operation of technology and industry. Through his investigations in geography and biology, Kropotkin discovered species to be interconnected with each other and with their environment. Mutual Aid is the classic source book on the survival value of co-operation within species which Kropotkin regarded as an important factor of evolution, arguing that those who claim competition within and between species is the chief or only factor have distorted Darwin's work. All this ensures that Kropotkin is "a great inspiration to the modern ecological movement." [Marshall, Op. Cit., p. 311 and p. 312]
                And he doesn't leave out Reclus, who I mentioned above:
                As well as Kropotkin's work, special note must be made of French anarchist Elisee Reclus. As Clark and Martin note, Reclus introduced "a strongly ecological dimension into the tradition of anarchist and libertarian social theory". He made "a powerful contribution to introducing this more ecological perspective into anarchist thought," of "looking beyond the project of planetary domination and attempting to restore humanity to its rightful place within, rather than above, nature." Reclus, "much more than Kropotkin, introduced into anarchist theory themes that were later developed in social ecology and eco-anarchism." [John P. Clark and Camille Martin (ed.), Anarchy, Geography, Modernity, p. 19] For example, in 1866 Reclus argued as follows:

                    "Wild nature is so beautiful. Is it really necessary for man, in seizing it, to proceed with mathematical precision in exploiting each new conquered domain and then mark his possession with vulgar constructions and perfectly straight boundaries? If this continues to occur, the harmonious contrasts that are one of the beauties of the earth will soon give way to depressing uniformity . . .

                    "The question of knowing which of the works of man serves to beautify and which contributes to the degradation of external nature can seem pointless to so-called practical minds; nevertheless, it is a matter of the greatest importance. Humanity's development is most intimately connected with the nature that surrounds it. A secret harmony exists between the earth and the peoples whom it nourishes, and when reckless societies allow themselves to meddle with that which creates the beauty of their domain, they always end up regretting it." [quoted by Clark and Martin, Op. Cit., pp. 125-6]

                "Man," Reclus says, can find beauty in "the intimate and deeply seated harmony of his work with that of nature." Like the eco-anarchists a century later, he stressed the social roots of our environmental problems arguing that a "complete union of Man with Nature can only be effected by the destruction of the frontiers between castes as well as between peoples." He also indicated that the exploitation of nature is part and parcel of capitalism, for "it matters little to the industrialist . . . whether he blackens the atmosphere with fumes . . . or contaminates it with foul-smelling vapours." "Since nature is so often desecrated by speculators precisely because of its beauty," Reclus argued, "it is not surprising that farmers and industrialists, in their own exploitative endeavours, fail to consider whether they contribute to defacing the land." The capitalist is "concerned not with making his work harmonious with the landscape." [quoted by Clark and Martin, Op. Cit., p. 28, p. 30, p. 124 and p. 125] Few modern day eco-anarchists would disagree.

                In summary, he does admit the modern eco-anarchism found its expression from the 1950s onward:
                So, while a specifically ecological anarchism did not develop until the revolutionary work done by Murray Bookchin from the 1950's onwards, anarchist theory has had a significant "proto-green" content since at least the 1860s. What Bookchin and writers like him did was to make anarchism's implicit ecological aspects explicit, a work which has immensely enriched anarchist theory and practice.
                Here's a good overview of the history of green anarchism:

                "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

                by ZhenRen on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 02:21:55 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Why do we only find this out after the fact? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Actual socialism is something different.
          Maybe the UN could sponsor a sort of national X-Prize for "actual socialism".

          A country that institutes and perpetuates it for two generations gets awarded...something, as long as it isn't something a Capitalist would consider valuable.

          •  Hard to do when (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            the capitalist world, led by the US, tries to destroy all such attempts.

            The Spanish Revolution in 1936 (which occurred during the fascist-initiated civil war) is a good example. It was doing very well but the fascist, capitalist, and Stalinist combined efforts to destroy anarcho-socialist Spain succeeded all too well. The capitalist "democracies" preferred a fascist government over egalitarian anarcho-socialist community self-management.

            "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

            by ZhenRen on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 11:27:37 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  From the "Los Angeles Review of Books": (0+ / 0-)


            One of Žižek’s primary tactics for shifting the frame of reference is overidentification. This strategy grows out of his experience under the Communist regime in Yugoslavia. Observing his country’s political life, Žižek came to a paradoxical realization: the fact that no one “really” bought into the official socialist ideology was not an obstacle for the rulers — cynical distance was part of their strategy for maintaining control. In this situation, Žižek proposed, the best way to resist was to take the ruling ideology at its word, naïvely demanding that the leaders fulfill the promise of their ideals.
            Here I am applying Zizek's strategy to the capitalist ideology which pervades the curricula at the Claremont Colleges.  I think the students should continue to ask, naively, why capitalism can't be nicer, even though in (cynical) reality capitalism is a lethal piece of crap which everyone has "bought into" because the costs of not doing so are (as with President Oxtoby of Pomona College's viewpoint upon disinvestment) perceived as being too high.

            Your idea of having the UN offer a prize for genuine socialism is a good one, though I suspect that if we applied Zizek's strategy of overidentification to what you have in mind, the UN would end up giving no prize to anyone for quite some time.

            "If you sing a song a day/ You will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

            by Cassiodorus on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 12:35:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  i have nothing against capitalism (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Meteor Blades

        properly regulated, it is a perfectly sensible economic system

        (whether capitalism can, in fact, be properly regulated is another question)

        but we don't have capitalism in the u.s. any longer

        what we have is neoliberalism, and neoliberalism is not capitalism, it is state capitalism or, as some call it, inverted totalitarianism

        i have a cousin, a hard-core republican, a university of chicago educated ex-bond analyst and even he recognizes that we no longer have a capitalist system

        he calls it crony capitalism but the name scarcely matters

        we live in a country where the government -- and therefore the people -- are servants to big money, especially wall street and big oil

        and it is suicidal

        •  How unfortunate. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          i have nothing against capitalism
          I was hoping you would have something against capitalism, with a handle like yours.
          but we don't have capitalism in the u.s. any longer
          The right-wing libertarians are promising us true, authentic capitalism, unlike the present-day capitalism some believe is false.

          "If you sing a song a day/ You will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

          by Cassiodorus on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:45:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  well, i'm not endorsing it as my preference (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            i'm just saying it is a theoretically workable economic system if properly regulated

            the problem, as i noted (and marx warned), is that in its advanced form, capitalism inevitably consumes everything, including the society it ostensibly serves

            that's where we are today

          •  also, the economic libertarian vision (0+ / 0-)

            of "pure" free market capitalism is the antithesis of what i want

            imo, capitalism must be highly-regulated, ameliorated with distributionist policies and should be relegated to certain non-critical areas of society

            areas essential to the common good must be reserved for the public

  •  Portfolios can't be untangled is one of the... (6+ / 0-)

    ... excuses some university governance boards also tried with the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s.

    Always great to see young people engaged in resistance. It's good in its own right AND it's action that spurs those so engaged to educate themselves further and develop additional actions.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:23:12 AM PST

  •  "like your ideas kids...but... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it's really wouldn't understand."

    seems we just need a few 'green'...or 'ethical' mutual funds for them to choose from...but looking at the profits of fossil-fuel pushers...too easy to find a moneymaker to prop up a fund...always looking for easy street.

    We are not broke, we are being robbed. ~Shop Kos Katalogue~

    by Glen The Plumber on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:36:32 AM PST

  •  The students should do something bold. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Tell the administration to divest, and if the divestment costs the university, raise the tuition (or reduce student aid) as the students do not want to benefit from fossil fuel investments.

    This is not as bold as it may sound, as this would be the result if the school did divest anyway.  Say "The school must divest and the students will live with the consequences."

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 06:52:46 PM PST

    •  The Claremont Colleges are loaded. (0+ / 0-)

      They can afford this.  The big question is about their allegiance to the law of value.

      "If you sing a song a day/ You will make a better way" -- Earth, Wind, and Fire

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 08:38:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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