As socialists, we see the Green New Deal as a minimum response to capitalism in transition amidst a crisis of its own making. However, the Green New Deal we’re fighting for and what the capitalist class has in mind could not be more different. The Green Deal in Europe and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States are both attempts to consolidate the prevailing capitalist order–not to build a path away from destruction. Through a combination of subsidies and mandates, these policies attempt to shepherd firm profiteering through a technological transition by any means necessary. Thanks to the efforts of organized segments of the working class, some measures—such as incentivizing a prevailing wage for clean energy construction—create political openings for alternative futures. However, on balance, the IRA fails the labor movement. The bill’s actual provisions, moreover, are oriented around our privatized electricity system, individual purchases of electric cars, and one-off retrofits for homeowners, not public goods for collective benefit.
The Democratic Party celebrated the IRA as climate action par excellence, a win for employers, workers, and marginalized communities alike. In the process, they attempted to co-opt the spirit if not the letter of the Green New Deal, raising the stakes of its clarification.
It is not enough to articulate the Green New Deal as a vision of racial, gender, economic, and environmental justice. A socialist Green New Deal contests the ongoing green capitalist transition by vying for democratic control over key economic sectors: energy, transportation, and construction. Our proposals are rooted in a concrete analysis of ruling class power, which is located in control over investment and production of surplus value. Capitalist responses to climate change and other environmental crises attempt to use this control to initiate technological transitions which further exploit and immiserate the working class, and are insufficient solutions to the crises at hand.
Beyond addressing the climate crisis, the Green New Deal as we see it aims to rebuild the public sector and the labor movement as both a means and an end. We can accomplish this by fighting for projects which secure and expand the public and ecologically-sustainable provision of social rights: energy, mobility, and housing. These demands promise not only to dislodge the entrenched position of the capitalist class, but also to unite social bases within the working class—workers in the public sector and the building trades, transit riders, tenants, environmental justice communities—behind a common vision of an emancipated, democratic, and ecologically sustainable society. After all, environmental protection, community safety, and transit expansion are a part of both our working conditions and our living conditions. That’s why we want to:
Expand Public Transit
- Massive expansion and re-funding of public transit systems through construction projects covered by project labor agreements (PLAs) and undertaken by the public sector
Proliferate Public Power
- Widening the scope and mandate of existing public power agencies, buildout of low-carbon public energy, transmission, and electricity infrastructure under PLAs and undertaken by the public sector
- Reform public power agencies to make them more accountable to workers and consumers
Build Green Social Housing
- Creation of publicly-owned social housing developers at the state, regional, and municipal level
- Construction and/or retrofitting of dense green social housing stock under PLAs and undertaken by the public sector
Grow Green Public Spaces
- Establishment of public recreational facilities which make free and universal leisure available to everyone
- Electrification, rooftop solar installation, and retrofitting of public buildings and facilities (schools, clinics, libraries, offices, etc.) under centralized PLA agreements