Who hasn’t been shocked at the TV advertisements paid for by the petrol multi-nationals proclaiming their dedication to ecology and a “green economy”? We are shocked because it is manifest that they are amongst the biggest polluters, and that their form of organization, the multinational corporation, is at the root cause of the massive ecological crisis. We shake our heads at such cynicism. They destroy the environment through mining, selling and promoting fossil fuel usage at the expense of all other forms of energy, and then come and baldly sponsor “ecology” on the TV? They think we will take this kind of rubbish? And the sad thing is, so many of us do. But they should not be allowed to take us for such a ride. Thus this article.
Yes, we have often written about the ecological impasse before us. Total ecological crisis is already staring us in the face. All manner of “tipping points” are already upon us. When certain levels are approached, sudden drastic changes can be precipitated, as in chemical reactions when the last drop of one solution that falls into another can cause the entire second substance to change drastically, when all prior drops provoked no visible reaction. In past articles, LALIT has cited John Bellamy Foster’s nine main tipping points. Even our mild and beautiful climate on earth is reaching tipping point. And it is this climate that has allowed us to breathe so freely on earth. Now it is under threat of total disequilibrium, and this is a result of man-made actions. So, it is serious. So, there is something we can, and must, do about it. Almost all scientists in the world agree that there are many of these grave tipping points, and ecology is vital to the survival of society, of humanity itself, and even of perhaps all living creatures.
At the same time, powerful organizations deny that there is a problem at all.
Some come out straight and deny that there is climate change as a result of human activity, (like burning massive amounts of fossil fuels) at all. They deny it outright.
Others, like the big multinational oil corporations, have chosen another form of denial. They deny that there is urgent need for a change in the political organization so as to be able to halt the human activity causing the ecological crisis. That is to say, they deny the need to overthrow the rule of capitalism, the rule that is perpetuating the ruin of the planet. And they pretend that they, big private capitalist corporations, can be part of the solution. They and their capitalist way of organizing labour and resource exploitation – hierarchical, bureaucratic and anti-democratic forms -- are at the very heart of the problem, and the impossibility of getting a solution into action.
And their pretense that they are part of the solution is now perhaps the biggest danger facing humanity.
Between categorical denialists and those who avoid outright denial while denying the need for socio-political change, there is a kind of continuum. There are all sorts of shades of grey in between. There are little poodles to the capitalists, there are opportunists of all ilk, there are those greedy for research money from the multi-nationals, there are those looking for sponsorship for sports and arts from various multi-nationals, and there are charities that take money from any source, there are NGO’s desperate for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) money, there are all manner of operators in the sector called “green business” who believe in capitalism with a thin layer of “green” painted on top, there are companies in banking, in insurance, in the hotel business, in factories of all kinds, who have metamorphosed themselves into “pro-ecology” forces. What they all have in common is their denial of the need to change the political, social and economic structures for making decisions, i.e. capitalist rule. Yet it is this social organization that allows, actually promotes, the destruction of the natural metabolic processes on planet earth, and it, itself, perpetrates the destruction of the planet in an uncontrolled and uncontrollable way, and prevents solutions being embarked upon. They wreak this havoc through wasted production, through wars, through pollution, through forms of transport that are grossly harmful to the planet, and all this is done through separating people’s hands and minds (labour power) from the power to take decisions (which is monopolized by the Boards of private, profit-driven companies.
MCB fakes being “ecologist”
Mauritius also has a fair dose of these new supposed “ecologists”.
The first example is the Mauritius Commercial Bank, the father of Mauritian capital of the most feudal kind. The MCB is now sponsoring an ecology-art festival. Is this really a change of heart? Or just taking direct control of various organizations in Mauritius by funding them? Not only is the MCB financing the thing, but it is the main organizer of it.
Yes, the MCB is not just a logo on the bottom of the invitation card. The Eco-Bridge Tamarin Arts Festival due to take place next month is run by the MCB. The Jhuboo family, the one with one of its members in the disgraced Labour Party as an MP, another who is Grand Master of some Freemason Lodge, and the family owns the Tamarin Estate as well as of the Hotel Group, Trimetys, which is running the festival alongside the MCB. They are setting up their own “Smart City”, too. And hope to divert the road leading up to the Tamarin Bridge so as to increase the value of their Riverside real estate. In fact, just recently the Jhuboo family has bought up the Tamarin Hotel on the sea on the other side of the River.
So, in the Press Conference announcing this ecological (and artistic) event, who do we see? Some second in charge of the Human Resources department of the MCB? No, Mr. Anthony Withers, CEO of the MCB in person. Next to him a Mr. Jhuboo, director of the family Hotel group, the Minister of Art and Culture doing a bit-part, and one photograph shows them all leaning over listening to the man they have named to run the event for them, Mr. Sebastien Sauvage. Who is he? He is the spokesman for the ecological organization Eco-Sud, one of those pro-capitalist NGO’s we mentioned earlier, and he is also a spokesperson for the supposedly left wing party, Rezistans ek Alternativ. This is a totally new model for exploiting “the ecology badge” against ecology.
The Preskil & Astroea Hotels finance Eco-Sud
Eco-Sud, together with Rezistans, is running a campaign against the new hotel La Cambuse near Mahebourg, on the basis that it will affect the sensitive Marine Park at Blue Bay. It no doubt will.
Nothing could be truer than that the hotels there, including any new hotel, as well as the sugar estates that over-use fertilizers that run into the sea at the first rain, are ruining the lagoon.
But the cause for concern is that Eco-Sud, is sponsored by the big capitalists of the country, the MCB.
And worse still, Eco-Sud is financed by the very Hotel Group, Croix du Sud including Preskil Beach Hotel and Astroea Beach Hotel, which, just like the new hotel will, already do affect the sensitive ecology of the Blue Bay Marine Park. But, they do not get criticized by Eco-Sud. They finance Eco-Sud. And, as if by chance, the hotel at La Cambuse will be a direct competitor for the two Eco-Sud sponsors. (If you, by chance think LALIT is exaggerating, just visit their web-site. They are proud of it. It is, to them, a new, modern paradigm.)
So, we have hotels responsible for the pollution of the lagoons in the South East of Mauritius, financing a “movement” against a potential competitor. And we have those responsible for ruining the Tamarin “wetlands” actually running an Art and Ecology Festival on the site.
This festival has had a great deal of “pompage” from journalists. Articles more like puffs, or exaggerated paid ads full of cheap flattery, have filled the newspapers.
And what is the aim of the organizers? The true aim behind all the surface ads? It seems to be to involve as many artists, musicians, NGOs, etc as “supporters” (and those in the pay of) the very ruiners of Mauritian society and Mauritian ecology.
So, now we have these organizers – sugar estate bosses, bank owners, hotel owners – running art events and running supposedly pro-ecology events. Not just sponsoring them, which is bad enough. But running them. And they put a leader of a supposed left party and supposed ecology group to run the thing for them. To be their spokesperson, too. Is this not a return, pure and simple, to patronage of feudal times?
If artists don’t develop a healthy suspicion of this kind of new control by the Kings and Queens of capitalism, we will surely be re-instating the old system from the Dark Ages. The hundred or so years of some democratization of art, will be reversed. Free Expression for artists will now be in the hands of the big boss at the MCB, sugar estates and hotel bosses. And just to remind people of the MCB’s idea of freedom, all their own employees, from top brass to cleaning ladies, are forbidden to keep any of their money from earnings at the MCB or from any other sources at any other financial institution than the MCB.
Anyway, it is dangerous for the future of humanity to let those in charge of doing the pollution to pretend to be the once stopping it. It is one step more cynical, but under capitalism anything goes, when they finance movements against their own competitors. And so, colluding with this lot, is what we call one of the shades of grey of “denial” of the problem. It is denial of the identity of the main perpetrators.
Not the first time that Mauritius is a Vanguard for Exploitation
Planting cane and milling sugar in Mauritius was used as one of the models for what sociologists call “the social organization of work” for modern factory-based capitalism. The model was used in England, where the dynamism of the Industrial Revolution (remember it was only 250 years ago that industrial capitalism came into being) brought the capitalist class to power. This was when bourgeois democracy came to replace the 5,000 year rule of different forms of feudalism, here and there on the earth. What was new about capitalism as a system, and this concerns ecology as such, as well as the social organization that destroys nature so blindly, and it did not exist before for the duration of humankind’s 160,000-year existence when we lived in harmony with nature, is this: It fractures the natural metabolism in nature between all living creatures with each other, and between living beings and inorganic matter, and at the same time, fractures humanity from its own labour power (so accurately called “kuraz” in Kreol).
Capitalism thus managed this double offensive:
1) They took control of the land, in particular “the commons”, and converted it into private property, a kind of capital even, which has money value, and then proceeded to use this monopoly on land, to use as they wish, as “free goods” everything on the land – animals, air, rivers, lakes, material resources under the ground, even the sea, without in any way accounting for it. They just destroy it, ruin ecological systems, and even if they ruin the entire planet, the whole mother earth that nurtures us, it’s just too bad, for them. So long as they extract profit. It is not us in LALIT that say this. This is their currency.
2) The capitalist class, given that they had banished the near totality of humanity from the land that nourishes us, was then able to wrest control of our “kuraz” (our labour power, for our mental and physical work, our creativity) from us. They buy it from us, so many rupees an hour, and then later they sell the produce and services that we create, and just pocket the money.
And in doing this, even our “kuraz”, itself, part of us, becomes a commodity like any other, for sale on a market. The Education Minister can produce a schema with the top line reading: “Labour Market” – as if it is the aim even of education!
Vast numbers of human beings get reduced to a status similar to that of a machine. All are forced to sell their labour power to the highest bidder, if there are bidders around. Most workers are ignorant of what they produce, for whom, where inputs come from and so on. And certainly working people are not free to refuse to do any work, if for example they find out that it is polluting the earth, or ruining the climate, or used in unjust wars. Someone who cannot refuse to work is, it seems obvious, not much more than a slave. We have to work, because we have been expelled from the land. Our “kuraz” has then been fractured from our power to decide what to do or not do with the hours we have upon the surface of the earth for our lives.
Before this (and maybe in the future, too, when we can get rid of the pestilence of this left-over slavery) humans were whole creatures, with power to decide what to do, with the power to function as natural creatures while living in nature, in an ongoing metabolic process. We did this for 95% of our time on earth, a minimum of 160,000 years (Homo sapiens sapiens – by recent estimates). We were part of this ecology. And our minds operated together with our bodies to decide what work to do and what not to do. All the nonsense about “human nature” being one of greed, egotism, etc is partly prejudice put out by those who benefit from popularizing the idea, but it is also pure ignorance as to just how long humans have existed, and how little time we have lived split into social classes.
The contribution of Karl Marx on this subject, as John Bellamy Foster explains so brilliantly in his full-length book Marx’s Ecology and as he and two others in their book The Ecological Rift also explain was to see these two different forms of fracture: the fracture of man from natural ecology and natural processes of metabolism (through industrial capitalism, in particular), and the fracture of human beings from our labour power (from feudal through capitalist times).
What does the future call upon us to do?
First, we must understand that the struggle for “ecology” is intimately linked with the struggle against the system that is ruining the environment we live in: capitalism. It is capitalism that prevents us from putting a stop to ruining the planet, as well as ruining it.
And capitalists – MCB bosses, the Jhuboo’s, hotel owners old and new – precisely because their mode of operation is like it is, are part of the problem. Never can they become part of the solution. It’s worth avoiding falling into their traps.
This article is an English translation (by Lindsey Collen) of the Kreol version published at the beginning of September in our bi-monthly magazine, REVI LALIT number 120.