John Molyneux and Owen McCormack: Given the extreme summer weather and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, just how bad are things now? What do you believe the time scale is for catastrophe and what do you think that catastrophe will look like? Are things worse than the IPCC report claims? Some, including Michael Mann, have warned against “doomsday scenarios” that might deter people from acting. In your view, are doomsday scenarios the truth that needs to be told?
John Bellamy Foster: We should of course avoid promoting “doomsday scenarios” in the sense of offering a fatalistic worldview. In fact, the environmental movement in general and ecosocialism in particular are all about combating the current trend toward ecological destruction. As UN general secretary António Guterres recently declared with respect to climate change, it is now “code red for humanity.” This is not a doomsday forecast but a call to action.
Still, the word catastrophe is scarcely adequate in the present age of catastrophe capitalism. Catastrophes are now ubiquitous, since extending to the scale of the planet itself. We are experiencing throughout the globe a series of extreme weather events due in large part to climate change, each of which rank as “catastrophic” by historical precedents, sometimes lying outside the range of what was previously thought to be physically possible. The extreme conditions experienced this summer in the Northern Hemisphere—including floods in Europe; Hurricane Ida in the United States, which not only devastated New Orleans, but also ended up killing people in floods in New York and New Jersey; and the worsening drought and wildfires in California and the entire Pacific Coast of the United States—clearly represent something qualitatively new.
This exchange appeared in the September 1961 issue of Monthly Review. The questions were submitted, in writing, to Comandante Guevara by Leo Huberman during the week of the Bay of Pigs invasion; the answers were received at the end of June.
Leo Huberman: Have relations with the United States gone “over the brink” or is it still possible to work out a modus vivendi?
Che Guevara: This question has two answers: one, which we might term “philosophical,” and the other, “political.” The philosophical answer is that the aggressive state of North American monopoly capitalism and the accelerated transition toward fascism make any kind of agreement impossible; and relations will necessarily remain tense or even worse until the final destruction of imperialism. The other, political, answer asserts that these relations are not our fault and that, as we have many times demonstrated, the most recent time being after the defeat of the Girón Beach landing [the Bay of Pigs invasion], we are ready for any kind of agreement on terms of equality with the government of the United States.
IN a recent report the People’s Commission on the Public Sector and Public Services has rightly drawn attention to the sheer un-constitutionality of the Modi government’s plan to privatise en masse the assets of the public sector. The constitution of the country is not just a set of procedures and rules for the governance of the polity. It expresses above all a certain social philosophy which is supposed to inform the behaviour of the various organs of the State and which constitutes the foundational beliefs around which the nation has come into being. This is particularly true of ex-colonial countries where the formation of the nation has been the outcome of an anti-colonial struggle that brought people together in an historically unprecedented show of unity; the social philosophy underlying the constitution of the newly formed nation-State provides the conceptual basis for this coming together.
Citing Nieznany, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran, a Newsweek report said:
Millions of fellow would-be insurrectionists will be there, too, says, “a ticking time-bomb” targeting the Capitol. “There are lots of fully armed people wondering what is happening to this country,” he says. “Are we going to let Biden keep destroying it? Or do we need to get rid of him? We are only going to take so much before we fight back.” The 2024 election, he adds, may well be the trigger.
Nieznany is no loner. His political comments on the social-media site Quora received 44,000 views in the first two weeks of November and more than 4 million overall. He is one of many rank-and-file Republicans who own guns and in recent months have talked openly of the need to take down — by force if necessary — a federal government they see as illegitimate, overreaching and corrosive to American freedom.
It’s not often that a book by radical authors gets reviewed — let alone favorably reviewed — in the mainstream press. The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow, is an exception. Published just two months ago, it has already received accolades from many of the world’s most influential English-language newspapers and magazines.
Even reviewers who question the author’s arguments for anarchism have hailed it as “a brilliant new account upends bedrock assumptions about 30,000 years of change,” (Atlantic) and “a dazzling array of stories about civilizations across many continents and thousands of years, all of which are grappling with what it means to be free” (Washington Post). We’ve also seen positive comments — raves in some cases! — from left-wing posters on social media.
It is certainly an enthralling book, but the two reviews published below, both from materialist anthropologists, argue that its account of human history ignores masses of contrary evidence, and that its political argument is idealist and voluntarist. Both reviews are particularly critical of the book’s failure to consider the causes of the oppression of women.
Chris Knight is a senior research fellow in anthropology at University College London, where he forms part of a team researching the origins of our species in Africa. His books include Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture and Decoding Chomsky: Science and Revolutionary Politics. His review of The Dawn of Everything was first published in Times Higher Education.
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale both trained as anthropologists and are finishing a book about human evolution, class society and sexual violence. Nancy’s most recent book, with Richard Tapper, is Afghan Village Voices: Stories from a Tribal Community, 2020. Jonathan’s is Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs. Their review of The Dawn of Everything was published in The Ecologist, and in their blog, Anne Bonny Pirate.
Both reviews are republished with the kind permission of the authors.