A Redder Shade of Green: Intersections of Science and Socialism by Ian Angus (Monthly Review Press, £17.99)
RELATIVELY brief and somewhat eclectic, this collection of essays on the links between science and socialism is nevertheless an outstanding guide to the subject.
It starts with a fascinating exploration of the life and work of “red chemist” Carl Schorlemmer, which he uses as a means of analysing the left’s relationship to science and the natural world in general.
For those keen to label Marxism as somehow innately anti-ecological and fixated upon unfettered industrial growth, Ian Angus’s nuanced and evidence-based conclusions might come as something of a revelation.
In later chapters, in a refreshingly clear and jargon-free manner, he takes on the central issue of climate change and convincingly demonstrates how fundamentally different the current human-induced anthropocene era is from climatic transformations during the glacial and holocene periods.
Angus meets head-on climate change deniers from both left and right and argues that the life-threatening situation can only be stopped by a radical and immediate shift towards an ecologically informed socialism.
It’s a book which has little time for environmentalists who hold all people equally to blame for the present-day crisis and the author contrasts the rather conservative approach of Malthusians such as Paul Ehrlich with the more socially aware vision of writers and activists like Rachel Carson and Barry Commoner.
After deconstructing the myths denigrating environmental concerns being some sort of a ridiculous and unfounded fantasy, Angus also makes the compelling and often ignored point that defending and developing biodiversity goes hand in hand with the struggle for land rights and food sovereignty and, refreshingly, he posits the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions as examples of inspirational alternatives.
Controversially, Angus argues for an end to all fossil fuels — something that might well prove unpopular in certain trade unions.
The book might have benefited from some illustrations of red-green unity to date and from a more thorough critique of both camps’ respective weaknesses. There are some real bones of contention between the two that have to be acknowledged, with the left shying away from seriously engaging in here-and-now questions of sustainability.
And it has often had a vision of a socialist society committed to outstripping capitalism in all respects irrespective of what may or not be the “good life” for the vast majority.
Many greens, meanwhile, have focused on individualised lifestyle choices as key and a rather naive political activism that doesn’t recognise the centrality of political economy, class struggle and anti-imperialism.
There are lessons for us all to learn from this book and reading it in tandem with the work of the likes of John Bellamy Foster can provide some real insights into what 21st-century Marxism can and should look like.