June 14, 2024

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have championed the Green New Deal as a key element in their “transformative” approach to tackling climate change and economic inequality. This proposal calls for extensive state intervention and nationalization of key industries, aims to shift the United States towards 100% renewable energy, guarantee jobs, and provide universal healthcare and education. However, despite its progressive veneer, the Green New Deal is just “green capitalism”. Rather than dismantling the capitalist structures it purports to challenge and establishing socialism, it is just a method for investment of over-accumulated capital, effectively consolidating the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

As part of its democratic road to socialism, the DSA proposes the Green New Deal. Although presented as “groundbreaking,” these proposals have roots in earlier ideas. Since 2006, a program for a Green New Deal has been included in the platforms of many American Green Party candidates, continuing until 2018. This program outlined goals such as 100% clean, renewable energy production by 2030, a carbon tax, guaranteed jobs, and free education and healthcare.

The Green New Deal involves significant state interventions to support capitalists when their activities become unprofitable. Lenin once described such policies as state monopoly capitalism, which tends to resurface and intensify during each new capitalist crisis. The recent capitalist economic crisis of capital over-accumulation, accelerated by the pandemic, has made the call for the Green New Deal even more prominent. However, these policies aim not at establishing a fairer economic order for the majority of workers but at preserving the functioning of capitalism.

How? The DSA proposes nationalization with a transformative agenda:

“We propose a program of transformative regulation, nationalization, social ownership, and internationalism that builds the solidarity and democratic power necessary for us to succeed. We call for the nationalization of businesses like utilities and critical manufacturing and technology companies, alongside regulation of corporate, communications, data, and financial sectors. We seek to ensure social and worker control over these businesses.”

This article will not cover the entire political program of the DSA. However, in line with its goals, the nationalizations will be part of the Green New Deal on its path to “socialism”, which proposes the following:

  • Democratize control over critical energy systems and resources.
    • Nationalize oil, gas, and coal extraction companies with the intent of phasing them out. They propose to “socialize”—an interchangeable word alongside “bringing under state control” for nationalization—the fossil-dependent industries such as manufacturing, construction, and transportation.
    • Bring energy monopolies under “public control” while supporting cooperatives and community energy projects.
    • Have the state assume control of companies in the agricultural industries.
  • Center the working class in a just transition to an economy of societal and ecological care.
    • Invest state funds into expanding public sector jobs and decarbonizing infrastructure, ecosystem restoration, climate adaptation, and low-carbon care. The measures also propose to create “dignified jobs” for workers in the fossil fuel industry (a signal for mass unemployment).
    • Expand funding for public research and development of green technology and agroecology.
    • Ensure workers’ “democratic control” over technological innovation and automation at work.

These proposals extend beyond merely promoting renewable energy; they aim to transform US manufacturing, transportation infrastructure, the power grid, and buildings and homes under the “Green New Deal.” The DSA promotes this plan as “combining work programs with measures to combat the climate crisis.”

The program outlines a comprehensive strategy for economic reform, pledging a state-supported “investment frenzy” that promises new jobs and an enhanced quality of life for the general population. The proposals include government-guaranteed jobs, wages, and a minimum income guarantee.

Additionally, it seeks to address “deep-seated racial, regional, and gender income disparities” and develop “universal health care programs.” The platform recommends policies and measures and urges labor unions to lead professional training and worker development. Given the capital destruction involved in the so-called “green transition,” this is intended to create space for new profitable investments.

Why is nationalization not enough?

In the call to nationalize these companies, we see the fundamental contradiction of capitalism: the clash between the social nature of work and the private appropriation of its products, the capital-labor contradiction. When it becomes clear that the private sector cannot ensure labor rights or the continuity of jobs crucial to entire regions, we turn to collective solutions.

However, the capitalist state does not represent the collective. It is not a class-neutral entity but rather the concrete expression of one class’s dominance over another, serving the common interests of the bourgeoisie. Consequently, state ownership within a capitalist framework remains capitalist ownership. While nationalizations can address workers’ immediate issues—such as preserving sector activity, jobs, and incomes—these are temporary fixes. Therefore, while the call for nationalization is valid, it must be coupled with the explanation that the ultimate solution lies in the socialization of the means of production. This solution requires a transformation in class power and, consequently, the class nature of the state.

What hides behind this push for a Green New Deal?

For decades, business groups have wielded significant influence. Since the early 1990s, numerous coalitions, associations, and other entities, known as business lobbies, have emerged to promote the “green agenda” to revive their profits and unlock stagnant funds.

These lobbies push the political system to incorporate the “green” economy into its priorities. In the US, for instance, they often align with social democratic forces, whose programs include elements of social policy to ensure the “green transition,” leveraging “climate change” to engage and mobilize the broader population.

One prominent organization is the CERES Investment Group, founded in 1989 and recognized in 2007 as one of the “100 most influential actors in corporate governance.”

The CERES network encompasses hundreds of fund investors managing over $44 trillion in assets. Its members advocate for improved disclosure of climate and sustainability risks and opportunities and strengthen climate, energy, and water policies at all levels of government.

The network includes major capital management firms such as BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, and Rockefeller Capital Management. Networks and associations under the CERES umbrella include international business groups from diverse industries, such as AMD, Amazon, Apple, Ford, and Dell.

In 2015, CERES and six other networks founded “We Mean Business,” a global coalition collaborating with powerful businesses and promoting climate change as a significant business opportunity of the century.

Monopolies are rapidly profiting from “green businesses,” as evidenced by the growth of companies in this coalition: from 735 in 2015 to 1,315 in 2020 and 1,776 in 2021.

The super-lobby aims to pressure governments into creating supportive policies for companies to implement bold climate actions. They advocate for a collaborative partnership between business and government to ensure the transition occurs with the necessary speed and scale, guaranteeing future business profitability.

What consequences has the Green New Deal brought to the people of other countries?

In Denmark, the wait time for renting a newly built home can range from 10 to 15 years. “Green transition” policies have led to increased rents, with the public bearing the brunt of the costs for plans to create “green” cities, transition away from fossil fuels, and shift to renewable energy sources. Universities tailor scientific programs to meet the interests of capitalists, producing graduates to fuel the “green initiatives” of monopoly groups. Households that bought photovoltaics as cheap, green energy solutions must now sell energy back to companies at low prices due to contract changes while having to purchase new technologies at higher prices.

The social democratic government, which has held power in Denmark for many years with the support of the opportunistic “Red-Green Alliance,” is responsible for implementing these measures. The supposed “green transition” has primarily benefited “green companies” such as VESTAS, a wind turbine manufacturer active in the “green economy” for many years. Since 2011, VESTAS has laid off thousands of workers, claiming that labor in Denmark is “not profitable.” Despite receiving millions in state aid and securing many state orders for wind farms, VESTAS faced protests when environmental organizations deemed a wind farm installation in the Österschild area unsuitable.

The “left” mask of the electoral alliance formed by the social democrats and the opportunists of the Red-Green Alliance further reveals its class character, with repressive measures of “law and order” being strengthened. In 2020, using the pandemic as a pretext, the Danish government targeted immigrant children as part of a racist measure to “stop crime.” The measure gave extensive powers to the police, allowing them to prohibit gatherings and confiscate valuables from citizens owing money to the state. Amidst a lack of affordable housing, the police also have free rein to evict tenants for arbitrary violations. This so-called “third way to socialism” only shows that the bourgeois state maintains the primary interests of capital, regardless of the political forces and their nuances.

In Denmark, as in other countries, the pandemic has been used as a pretext to push through measures long in the pipeline to intensify exploitation and increase profitability. These measures include the flexibilization of labor relations, adjustment of working hours, teleworking, employer subsidies supposedly to preserve jobs, liberalization of dismissals, erosion of trade union rights and freedoms, and raising the retirement age. Concurrently, law enforcement authorities now possess extended and unchecked powers to preempt any potential escalation of class struggle, ensuring readiness to protect bourgeois interests. This result is the true essence of the “Green New Deal.”

How will these measures not lead to socialism?

Setting aside the business groups behind these policies—who will never align with the revolutionary aims of those advocating for a socialist revolution—we can approach the issue from a different perspective. The Green New Deal’s policies are a crucial tool for addressing the problem of large-scale over-accumulated capital. Any reference the DSA makes to environmental protection is pretentious, as illustrated by the example of Denmark. Major government interventions aim to shape conditions and incentives for new profitable investments, leveraging digital technology and the “green transition” of the capitalist economy, with controlled depreciation of fixed capital (e.g., closure of lignite stations, withdrawal of conventional transport means, changes in energy networks, etc.).

No proposal of bourgeois management, whether Keynesian or liberal, can frustrate or annul the laws of capitalist production, the pursuit of profit, anarchy, uneven development, and the opposition between the social character of production and the capitalist appropriation of its results. Urban management measures can only temporarily soften the depth of the next crisis. The new cycle of “investment” and economic recovery will create the conditions for a new and much greater crisis of overaccumulation.

Ensuring the profitability of new “green investments” and monopolistic groups requires an increase in the degree of exploitation of workers, the expansion of flexible labor relations, cheap and manipulated labor force, and even the expansion of the state’s repressive mechanisms. Any temporary measures to prevent a basic level of consumption from collapsing and unemployment from escalating are taken based on the recovery of capitalist profitability and the integration of popular discontent. They do not constitute a progressive turn and cannot address the inherent contradictions of the capitalist system that are bursting at the seams.

While “Green New Deal” investments will lead to a new accumulation of capital and profits, they will not curb high unemployment rates or relative and absolute poverty, as they will not include a general reduction of working hours with a simultaneous increase in labor income. It is the opposite. Not only do these policies fail to protect the environment—since they lack appropriate measures to prevent natural hazards like fires, floods, and earthquakes—but “green projects” (e.g., wind farms) contribute to the destruction of forests, mountains, and ecosystems, resulting in an overall negative outcome. Ultimately, the public will bear the burden of new loans and the state’s temporary rescue of troubled groups, facing higher costs for “green electricity,” energy poverty, new inequalities, etc.

The Green New Deal offers no potential as a policy for a strategy of socialist transformation. The alignment of these policies with the interests of powerful business lobbies only suggests that the policy ultimately serves to preserve and adapt capitalist structures rather than dismantling them. Historical and contemporary examples illustrate how “green” policies can exacerbate social inequalities and reinforce capitalist dominance. Therefore, achieving true social and environmental justice requires a deeper reconfiguration of class power and the economic system, beyond the measures outlined in the Green New Deal – the complete overthrow of the capitalist system.