Book Reviews: “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America,” by Thomas Friedman (Farrar, Strous, and Giroux, New York, 2008); and “The Green-Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems,” by Van Jones with Ariane Conrad (Harper One, New York, 2008).
These two books on global warming were published last year as the Obama campaign moved into high gear. Friedman is a NY Times columnist. Jones is a human rights activist who Obama appointed as Special Advisor for Green Jobs but then was forced to resign recently after being attacked by right-wing Republicans for supposedly being a “Marxist.”
Both Friedman and Jones recognize that today’s severe global warming is due to increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) in industry, transportation and in the generation of electrical power. They both recognize the urgent need for a solution. But they both (incorrectly) suggest, in different ways, that the capitalist market can solve this problem, if only governments worldwide would adopt “the correct policies.”
In his book, Friedman is an unabashed apologist for U.S. imperialism. Jones, on the other hand, denounces the U.S. history of genocidal theft of Indian lands, slavery and the ongoing racist treatment of black, Latin, Asian and Native American working-class people, as well as the extreme sexist discrimination against women. Racism/sexism and global warming are the “two biggest problems” (his subtitle) facing the world.
Friedman writes as though racism and the current oil wars never happened and calls on the U.S. to regain its mythical moral leadership in the world (after Bush allegedly destroyed it) by taking the lead in decreasing GHG emissions. Jones, on the other hand, calls on the U.S. government to solve global warming by creating green jobs to build clean energy usage that will also help to abolish the inequality of income and opportunity suffered by black and Latino workers. He says neither problem can be solved without solving the other.
The two authors seem to be living in two different universes — Friedman in fantasyland while Jones is almost in the real world.
While Jones doesn’t defend the war-criminal U.S. ruling class like Friedman does, he appears clueless about the nature of capitalism. He doesn’t recognize the antagonistic relationship between the capitalist class and the working class. He doesn’t see the capitalists’ absolute need to promote racism and sexism to enhance their super-profits and to maintain their political power — control of the state. This enables them to exert their class domination over both the working class and over competing imperialists.
Though Jones advocates the full involvement of “minority” workers to pressure the government to foster use of solar panels, windmills and other forms of clean energy, he proposes that such a coalition be led by “progressive” businessmen. (!) This position is misleading pie in the sky, typical of those like Jones who toy with revolutionary ideas at one point in their lives and then reject them to pursue a career in the Democratic Party.
His central error is not understanding that capitalism, with its driving profit motive, cannot stop using fossil fuels without dismantling virtually the entire body of physical capital in the world, replacing it with new physical plant and modes of transportation employing clean energy sources. The world’s capitalist classes can never agree to do this.
The world’s imperialists are locked in life-and-death competitive rivalries with each other. No “global policy” that interferes with their battle for maximum profits can possibly be written and enforced as long as these imperialists fight with each other over control of the world’s resources and markets.
The main battle we face in the movement against global warming is defeating the misleading strategies of writers like Jones and the fantasies of liberals like Friedman. We must redouble our efforts to demonstrate that only the abolition of capitalism, classes and production for profit instead of for use can lay the foundation for a renewed planet. Only the world’s working class, led by its communist party PLP, once having seized power from the capitalists and consolidated its power through revolution, will be able to clean up the world, revolutionize production processes with safe, clean energy and save the planet.