a friend of mine recently reminded me how great the PBS news series Frontline is.  i started combing through their archives looking for what coverage they’ve done on the ecology movement.  so far i’ve watched the 2007 program entitled “Hot Politics” which covers the climate debate going on within the US ruling classes since 1988.  i’m still working my through the 2008 program entitled “Heat”.

in a recent post in which i shared my congealing thoughts on the ecology movement as it relates to the broader political climate i detailed how i see the current climate talks as part of the broader crisis facing the US ruling class.  “Hot Politics” has confirmed these inklings.  it really helps me understand something if i can trace its historical development, and “Hot Politics” does just that.  there is a lot of energy surrounding the UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December, but these COP (Congress of Party) talks have been going on since 1995, beginning in Madrid.  again and again in Rio, Madrid, Kyoto, Trieste, and Bali US rulers have given a big F-you to the rest of the world when it came to addressing climate change.  and as Frontline points out each of these times US rulers refused to sacrifice economic growth.

so as i asked before, why now?

i believe that one of the main factors in this willingness to negotiate is the recession. US capital is contracting, and if they’re going to face limitations to growth, they are trying to make sure that other national capitals are facing the same obstacles.  the climate talks give US rulers the opportunity to not only place limitations to capitalist growth for other nations, but it also gives them chance to set the terms of those limitations.  the problem of course, is that other ruling classes know the US is coming from a position of weakness.  Obama’s multilateralism is one indicator of this, and so the usual carrot and stick isn’t working.

what got me thinking about this is how the era of neoliberalism has been partially charaterized by an increasingly authoritarian state that continues to buck, dismantle and attack previous gains made by the working class and even the minimal standards of bourgeois democracy.  the declawing of the EPA is just one example.  it raises some important questions for what the US working class and ecology movement can accomplish during this time.

the terrain is really different for, say the Chinese working class who have been involved in a series of skirmishes with Chinese state security forces over the health effects of rampant ecological devastation.  (i’ll try to have more on these soon.)  Chinese capital, in contrast to the US, is expanding.  for the working class and ecology movements in China this means that the Chinese ruling classes have the ability to grant concessions and draw sections of those movements within the sphere of ruling class legitimacy and state intitutions.  these concessions by the US rulers are becoming less and less likely and possible.

in the US, the willingness of the US ruling classes to negotiate speaks to their weaknesses.  in China, we are only beginning to see how far Chinese capital has yet to go before they completely commoditize China — socially, geographically and ecologically.  there are vast cracks and gaps amongst the world wide ruling classes.  as one interviewee said, “this century is up for grabs.”  the working class and oppressed can accomplish so much.