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(en) France, UCL AL #318 - Culture, Hervé Kempf: "It is vital to get out of capitalism and move on to another phase of history" (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 7 Aug 2021 09:35:44 +0300

After reporting on Hervé Kempf's last essay, Que crève le capitalisme. It will be him or us ! We wanted to extend this reflection and its reception with an interview in which the author specifies his point of view on several questions. ---- It confirms our points of agreement on the need for a break with capitalism and the increasingly strong centrality of ecology but also our differences on the nature of the state, social transformation through institutional channels and more. largely the relationship to power. ---- He questions libertarian and revolutionary strategies on their ability to build a majority of ideas in a context marked by the rise of increasingly authoritarian capitalism. At the same time, he does not fail to question us about the political space of a radical reformism whose recent disappointments are numerous (Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Workers' Party of Brazil) and disillusions with serious consequences.

More than an invitation to freeze the debates by taking note of the only differences, we see it as an encouragement to create dynamics on the points of agreement and spaces allowing to debate and to act without sectarianism, but also to strengthen the struggles. social and ecological carriers of social transformation which much more than the electoral way help to move the political lines.

Alternative Libertaire : Why do you think it is ecology became political horizon of the XXI th century ?

Hervé Kempf: We are now in a situation of ecological disaster. The consequences that this is starting to have and will have more and more on the conditions of existence are such that ecology has become the priority political question, to which all the others - distribution of wealth, migration, relationship to science and society. technical ... - relate henceforth.

And why is the break with capitalism a central strategic issue ?

Capitalism is the economic system largely dominant in the early twenty- th century and its insatiable search for profit, stimulating the unlimited exploitation of resources of the biosphere, is the root cause of ecological disaster. It is therefore vital to get out of it and move on to another phase of history.

Your book gives an important place to struggles and movements contributing to social transformation. Nevertheless, the combative unionism embodied by Solidaires, the CGT, the CNT or even the FSU and among the peasants the Peasant Confederation is almost absent from your remarks. However, even weakened their capacity to mobilize remains the most important. In addition, many of their militants are involved in ecological struggles and this component is an essential element of the anti-capitalist struggle. Why not take it more into account in your thinking ?

For the past twenty years, ecological struggles, but also feminist struggles against police violence, have been the most dynamic, the most capable of generating positive collective energy. Because the question of ecology is strategically central, the other struggles tend to be redefined around this issue.

Environmental victories - and there are a number of them - are often the result of original alliances and carry an alternative world view, as the emblematic case of Notre-Dame-des-Landes has shown.

Read also the article on the book Que crève le capitalisme
On the other hand, trade union struggles remain essentially defensive against the steamroller of neocapitalism, without succeeding in defining an alternative. What remains of the trade union movement and more broadly of the workers' movement is weakened, and still struggles to break out of the productivist scheme. Trade unionism must operate its antiproductivist transformation, imagine a future other than the return of Keynesianism from 1945 to 1975. It is necessary to think about the end of growth and of what will be an ecological society. From this point of view, the alliances with the environmental movement that are emerging with the Never Again initiative are very promising, as are the common struggles at the Darblay Chapel or at the Grand Puits refinery.

How you see the break with capitalism raises questions. Thus you do not question the state which is intimately linked to capital. You seem to be telling us that it is possible to transform the state and thus domesticate capital.

Likewise, and this is consistent with an attachment to the state as an instrument of organization of society, you seem to favor more a correction of inequalities through taxation than an appropriation of the means of production by those who produce. In fact, the break that you are advocating is aimed more at neoliberalism than capitalism.

For me, there is no difference between neoliberalism and capitalism. Capitalism is a historical phenomenon, and neoliberalism is only one phase of this history. The economic crisis of 2008-2009 marked an evolution of capitalism with an expansion of neoliberalism in what can be called technocapitalism which is the current form of capitalism. It places technological development as a fundamental value, assuming the ecological disaster and the climatic apartheid that it implies, and abandons the universalist ideal which arose from the Enlightenment and was carried, among others, by political liberalism. This evolution of capitalism and the new role that the state is taking in it is the central argument of the book.

Faced with the question of the urgency of the ecological disaster, a pragmatic response is needed in terms of power. The disappearance of the state in a few decades does not seem possible to me. State suppression is in my opinion a losing strategy. The state preceded capitalism and a non-capitalist state is possible, because the state has an ambiguous nature and can accept non-capitalist economic forms. The ideal would certainly be that there is no state. But the crucial problem is to know what to do over the next twenty years to change the current course.

It is necessary to develop non-capitalist forms of enterprises stemming from the social and solidarity economy, cooperatives - which constitute the standard formula in which the production tool is appropriate. Nationalization also remains relevant or even essential in sectors such as energy and transport. In addition, taxation remains in the short term the most effective instrument for carrying out the essential redistribution of wealth, and also for reorienting the economy through ecological taxation. And taxation is consubstantial with the state. Finally, it remains essential to re-establish the claim for the maximum admissible income.

You seem seduced by the capacity for self-organization of social movements and in particular ZADs, but you give the impression of not believing in it on more global scales. The question of the collective and of direct and self-management democracy is however more and more posed by the movements of recent years (standing nights, yellow vests, climate movement ...) is not this contradictory with a solution that would place an institutional ecological left in the unsurpassable horizon of representative democracy ?

Self-organization is possible on larger scales, as shown in the Rojava of the Kurds (in Syria) and the Chiapas of the Zapatistas (in Mexico), two regions as large as Belgium. We believe in these democratic and self-managed experiences and they are echoed in Reporterre. I do not believe that this is contradictory with the political struggle through the representative channel in France, nor, moreover, with the development of forms of self-organization at scales such as that of Zad or of smaller collectives. The anti-capitalist strategy must be pragmatic and not tighten up by opposing elections and struggles on the ground. We are indeed faced with a determined adversary, who chooses the path of authoritarianism or even fascization,

Admittedly, the electoral route is disappointing and always carries with it the risk of recreating mechanisms of power and relations of domination. But it must be considered in the current situation as a tool, among others, allowing at least limiting the damage to collective solidarity systems such as social security, unemployment benefits, etc. But in any case, we must not abandon the struggles on the ground and the development of ecological and non-hierarchical alternatives.

The question of social and political alliances that you are addressing is unavoidable. But where do you place the dynamic primarily, in an electoral construction or in that of counter-powers because the latter is clearly neglected by the left-wing parties who prefer the institutional route ?

If we can not have enough people to be and on the ground and in the elections, it is a real problem, which is the sign of the weakness of political movements. Because it is necessary to act on the two levers. We are in July 2021, one year away from a presidential election in a crazy system since it gives disproportionate power to a single person. This is also what makes alliances difficult.

In Reporterre , we believe that we must not abandon the struggles on the ground, the environmental and social struggles and push for an alliance between rebellious France, Europe ecology, the Greens and peripheral groups.

How is Reporterre doing now and what are its plans and ambitions ?

The daily life of ecology is going well. Its accounts are in surplus and, thanks to rigorous management, we have no economic concerns and can continue to develop to better inform and reach a wider public. We are an exceptional case in the French press: with free access, without shareholders and without advertising, Reporterre is 97% financed by donations from readers (theother 3 % come from the sale of articles and books published at Seuil. in the Reporterre collection). The site employs fifteen people, on permanent contracts, and is visited by 1.3 million readers per month. So the independent press without capital and supported by those who read it, it works. We will continue to expand the editorial staff, strengthen IT and communication, advance in video. We want to follow the struggles more, tell the ecology and the alternatives because otherwise the situation would be too sad.

Interview by Laurent Esquerre

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