Yaer XXX, 1998, Number 1, Page 34
PROPOSALS FOR A EUROPEAN ECOLOGICAL MOVEMENT *
The Western industrialized world presents itself as a group of (national) “entities”, which not only organize competition within their borders but also compete with one another at international level, in the industrial and commercial sectors. Basing themselves on their national sovereignty, they adopt unilateral measures in the monetary, budgetary, fiscal, industrial, customs, administrative, and health fields, etc, with the aim of raising the competitiveness of their economies and their rate of development, and to get other countries to shoulder their economic problems, inflation and unemployment. If we take into consideration the policies carried out by all the national (or regional) governments, we can see that their aim at the moment is to reach the highest level of efficiency, maximizing the cohesion between the government’s action and the action undertaken by industrial and union forces, with the support of educational institutions.
We see this aspiration to complete cohesion in the words with which Galbraith refers to the alliance between “big governments”, “big business” and “big unions”, and in Mr. Vanden Avenne, President of the Vlaams Economisch Verbond’s quip that Flemish Belgium should take its lead from Japan and that we should speak of the pays flamand incorporated as we speak of Japan incorporated. The same idea comes out in the declaration of Jean-Marie Dehousse who, in his position as President of the Walloon executive, states that he feels closer to the Walloon entrepreneurs than to the Flemish workers.
In this framework of national cohesion, the live forces of the state (union, social, political and many other forces), are invited to limit their criticisms to national management and to identify themselves with the politics of government and the great industrial forces.
In the present state of crisis — which the Greens do not consider conjunctural, but rather the beginning of a new economic situation — the experts consider that there will be a spurt of development, at both national and international level (a new Kondratieff cycle), and are awaiting new technology which will bring not only new forms of rationalization of the processes of production of goods and services, but also new consumer products.
The strategies of silent alliance between national governments, entrepreneurs, unions, centres of scientific research, are founded on economic nationalism and on classic productivism. In the short term, these traditional forms mobilize the masses and obtain certain results by pursuing the idea of the competitiveness of the national economy. In the medium term, they show the important progress that needs to be made through new technology, which can stimulate growth in the national and world economies.
But the governments and traditional parties do not have any plan for society. They know they must support their own best enterprises so that they can successfully face up to international competition, and that they must create the conditions necessary for the development of a certain industrial world which will see to the development of a plan for society. The political parties and the democratic forces will have only the job of correcting the social and ecological imbalances, produced within society. We must add here that the political world has not even the slightest idea of the plan for society which the industrial world is preparing. It only knows that it should preach optimism, that young people should study, should specialize as much as possible, should learn to use their initiative to get by, that school programs and continued training of the individual should respond to the needs of industry and new technology. But when we ask the political class towards what objectives these efforts are directed, we are told that the aim is to maintain our competitiveness compared with other national economies and to reach the standards of the most advanced countries, Japan and the USA, by the year 2000. This concept is repeated at every opportunity in the declarations of the governments, without the need ever being felt to refer to “other” realities in Japanese and American society: living standards, spending power, social security, unemployment, poverty, cost of university studies, military defence (Japan does not have an army), level of conservation or of destruction of cultural and natural heritage, etc.
The traditional forces do not have any vision of the future: they base themselves simply on classic monetarist reductionism and economic nationalism to develop their policies on a day-to-day basis.
We can say that the ecological and Green movements are distinguished from the traditional political forces (which were born with the first industrial revolutions, at the time when dynastic and religious nationalism — cujus regio, ejus religio — was giving way to the nascent democracies, popular and linguistic nationalism) because of their criticism of economic and monetary reductionism — an ideological and pseudo-scientific product of these industrial revolutions — and because of their new attitude to nationalism as a basis for the sovereignty of the states and as the supreme criterion for democratic solidarity.
It would be interesting to record the actions, the plans, the manifestoes and the draft laws of the ecologists to see, on one hand, which are part of the struggle against economic-monetary reductionism, and, on the other hand, which are inspired by criticism of political nationalism.
All the proposals relating to the debate on the goods to safeguard, produce, reproduce, develop and put at the disposal of all human beings rather than nations (which is a very different thing), belong without doubt to the first category. The terms of this debate are based on alternatives of this type: nuclear energy or alternative energy sources, industrialized agriculture or alternative agriculture, motorways or unpolluted nature, exchange-value or use-value, production of monetarized wealth or non-monetarized production etc.
In contrast with traditional forces, the Greens have a plan for society and they certainly have clear ideas on the goods and services to produce (and reproduce) and those not to produce. They do not, however, ignore the monetarized economy (in a dualistic economy) which remains vital for the production of goods and services and for the achievement of many plans for social justice, but which cannot impose its units of measurement and criteria of evaluation as the only valid ones every time that economic and social decisions must be taken.
The traditional forces incite entrepreneurs to produce anything at all, as long as it is a good or a service which can be monetarized, commercialized, exported and taxed, without taking into account the consequences and the damage it might do to our natural and cultural heritage, our health, employment prospects, neighbouring countries, the Third World and peace. The Greens have a different attitude. Their ideas on the choice of products and means of production are less simplistic, more complex, because they take into account a wider range of factors. Traditional forces incite us to produce anything at all, and ensure that the modern state (its Social Security and Health Service Ministry and its Department of the Environment) will repair the damage and the destruction caused. The Greens do not encourage the production of just anything. Look at the plans in the fields of industry, agriculture, transport, energy, education, culture and art and you will see that they take a wider range of factors into account, not just the monetary factor: respect for the environment and our natural and cultural heritage, the possibility of decentralizing production and promoting direct democracy, the interests of the Third World, general health, peace, etc. Social and ecological factors do not come after the economic choices, but are integrated into the choice itself. The social thinking of the ecologists is there from the beginning, from the moment in which the choice of what to produce and how to produce it is made, before the means of production have become means of destruction.
The debate of the Greens with the traditional political forces will be difficult and, on a few specific themes, compromise, on which the dialectic between government and opposition is based in a democratic society, will be impossible. In this way the Greens will not be just a force of opposition and criticism, but also the vehicle for radically alternative behaviour — in the world of production and in all aspects of daily life — on the basis of a new plan for society.
To create a human society, which is federalist, decentralized, transnational, supernational, which foreshadows global society, implies not only a peaceful, non-violent attitude based on solidarity, but also a systematic criticism of nationalism, that is the force that opposes solidarity and transnational democracy.
Given that nationalism has dominated and divided men of the same families, the same classes, the same universal ideologies, it is necessary to know how to understand nationalism, its dialectic and its success, in the same way as it is necessary to understand economic reductionism and expansionist productivism. But to condemn nationalism, to criticize it and to refuse it is not enough. The Greens propose international solidarity and, if possible, multi-cultural, transnational, or supernational democracy, as an alternative to the nationalism of those who govern which justifies the selfishness of the people, their aggressiveness and discrimination against all those who are not part of the nation.
All the proposals of the ecologists are within this framework, for example those on disarmament, on supporting international bodies like the UN, the democratization of the European institutions (we support the European Parliament, elected directly since 1979), and the defence of foreign workers.
[*]This is an abridged text of the speech held at the federalist Seminar in Ventotene on September 1-8, 1987.