Sunday, January 21, 2018

2802. Workers and Students in Iran Resist Attacks on Their Rights

By Kamran Nayeri, Socialist Action, June 2000
Workers protest non-payment of their wages in Abadan, Iran.
In the aftermath of the Feb. 18 elections, when the political forces that promised political and social reform of the most repressive aspects of the Islamic Republic won a decisive majority in the Sixth Parliament, the anti-reform forces within the regime have launched a broad series of legal and extra-legal attacks on the Iranian people.
Accounts in the bourgeois media have analyzed these attacks in terms of a factional struggle within the Islamic Republic regime. Yet nothing less than the political confidence and legitimacy won by the Iranian working people not only through the 1979 revolution but also in recent years is at stake.
While some of these recent attacks are in fact directed against the pro-reform politicians within the regime itself, they have a direct bearing on the rights Iranian working people have tried to win throughout their modern history, including through three periods of revolutionary mass upsurge.
In other instances that affect immediate interests of the capitalist class, the attacks are waged and sustained by groups in both factions.
The recent attacks include:
  • The Council of Guardians, a conservative un-elected body that answers only to the unelected Supreme Leader, began a review of the election procedures and cancelled the results for 11 reformist candidates. In each instance, there were protests, including street protests that sometimes turned against the government property.
  • Saeed Hajjarian, an elected vice president of Tehran’s city council and a former vice president to Iranian President Khatami, was shot from close range in front of his office. Hajjarian was involved in setting up the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s and recently blew the whistle on a death squad organized from the Ministry of Information (intelligence).
In the fall of 1998, the death squad hacked to death the leader of a small bourgeois nationalist organization and his wife at their home and kidnapped and strangled three well-respected Iranian writers, two of them involved in the fight to obtain official recognition for the Writers Association.
Eventually, eight persons were arrested in the assassination attempt on Hajjarian. The gunman, Saeed Asgar, disclosed that he had accepted the assignment to kill Hajjarian after a network of collaborators argued that he is an enemy of Islam.
However, the judge decided to treat the proceedings as a criminal rather than political case. Hajjarian’s lawyer provided evidence that the group has been involved in a series of other similar attacks. Evidence such as the type of motorcycle used in the attack linked the assassins to the armed government forces.
  • In a major attack on the freedom of the press, since April 23 the government has closed down 19 prominent dailies, weeklies, and other journals viewed as pro-reform-reducing the space for public dissent in the media. Saeed Mortazavi, the judge who has issued these orders, stated that his aim was to stop the press from “affecting society’s opinions and arousing concern among the people” and to “dispel the worries of the people, of the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and of the clergy.”
  • A number of journalists, such as Akbar Ganji, Mashallah Shamsolvazin, and Latif Safari, and feminist writers such as Mehrangiz Kar and Shahla Laheeji, have been arrested and others have been summoned before the court.
  • The outgoing Fifth Parliament hurried through a bill that will remove 2.8 million workers-those who work in establishments with five or fewer employees, or just under half the workforce-from the protection of the labor law and social security system for the next six years. The bill was introduced last summer with support from the Iranian chamber of commerce.
  • It also passed a press law imposing further restrictions on the press, by making it dependent on approval from the Ministry of Information (intelligence service), the courts, and the police. All these repressive apparatuses were the subjects of criticism by the papers recently shut down.
Imperialists intervene
These attacks have opened the way for the imperialist powers to step up their intervention in Iranian affairs.
In the aftermath of the February elections, the U.S. State Department lifted the ban on importation of Iranian pistachios, caviar, and rugs to display its approval of the reformists’ electoral victory. The reformists tend to favor bourgeois normalization of social, economic, and political life in Iran and abroad, including a willingness to drop Iran’s opposition to the Oslo “peace accord,” and re-establishment of relations with Washington.
At the same time, Washington has pressed Moscow to discontinue training Iranian engineering students in its universities because it claims such training will enable Iran to deploy long-range missiles that will pose a danger to Israel.
Most recently, Washington again intervened to postpone for the third time a vote at the World Bank on a loan for upgrading Tehran’s sewage system. An alleged reason is U.S. displeasure with the trial of 13 Iranian Jews from the southern city of Shiraz.
While the mass media and capitalist politicians abroad have generally turned a blind eye to the attack on the workers, and have attributed the attacks on the freedom of the press to the realm of faction fights within the regime, they have given prominent attention to the trial of the Jews.
As the trial opened up behind closed doors, the government paraded a majority of the defendants on state-run TV to “confess” that they had been spies for Israel.
Israeli involvement in Iran dates back to the late 1950s, when the Mossad joined the CIA to organize the hated Iranian secret police to prop up Washington installed dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. And the Israeli regime has ceaselessly campaigned against the Iranian revolution, which changed the political balance in the Middle East in favor of the Arab and Palestinian people.
However, the trial of the 13 Iranian Jews is blatantly undemocratic. In fact, during the past 21 years, the Islamic Republic regime has similarly paraded dozens of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience on national TV, who usually “confessed” to some political “crime” and endorsed repressive measures taken against the working people.
The Jewish defendants, who are small businessmen, teachers, and students, were arrested over a year ago without any specific public charge against them. Just before the recent wave of attacks, it seemed that the government was searching for a solution to drop the spying charges against the 13 Jews. But when the wave of new attacks began, it decided to proceed with the trial.
Only shortly before the trial were they allowed a lawyer, who promptly denied the spy charges. The trial was held behind closed doors, citing “national security” concerns, even though the defendants’ lawyer argued that none of the accused could have had access to sensitive information and that there could be no security risks involved.
The reformist response
The reformist leadership was initially silent to the recent wave of attacks on the democratic rights of the Iranian people. In each instance, they called for calm and the “rule of law.” Some of the reform politicians actually found merit in the use of the legal system to crack down on the media.
However, as the scope of the attacks widened, the rumor of an unfolding coup began to circulate, backed by no other than the minister of interior, Mussavi-e-Laari. According to these accounts, the intent of the coup was to block the opening of the Sixth Parliament-which has a reformist majority-and eventually to drive out President Khatami. The reformist response, however, remained the same: to urge the Iranian people to stay calm and support the “rule of law.”
Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khamenei initiated the repression with a call for “Islamic violence” against the press that had become “the bases for enemies of Islam.” This was followed by calls to shut down the Tehran bazaar and Islamic seminaries in Qum.
Street graffiti appeared in Tehran accusing the press not controlled by the anti-reform coalition of housing anti-Islamic elements. The state-run TV and radio joined in this campaign.
All factions in the Islamic Republic regime share full responsibility for the attacks on the workers’ rights and standard of living. President Khatami’s economic plan aims to make working people sacrifice even more to solve the ongoing economic crisis.
Pro-reform ideologues preach how Iranian workers must accept painful choices today so the Iranian industrialists can compete in the world market. They even ask workers to bear repressive measures since, they insist, the Islamic Republic regime is their ally in their national struggle against the imperialists and workers in the West.
Students and workers take to the streets
Despite calls for calm issued by the leaders of the reform coalition, students from a number of Tehran universities began to protest the press crackdown. While the initial protests were small and limited-and in some instances, such as at the Beheshti University, the police and Ansar-e Hezbollah (a semi-fascist force) attacked the students-thousands across Iran joined the protests.
The universities have become centers of campaigning against the government crackdown on democratic rights. Meanwhile, Iran has witnessed a surge in organized workers’ protests.
For years, the assault on the standard of living of working people has produced local workplace resistance. Workers across Iran have organized factory meetings, work stoppages, and factory takeovers. They have blocked streets and roads and demonstrated in front of governmental agencies.
Iranian workers are fighting for their very survival. Under President Khatami, a new and ambitious wave of privatization is underway. This offers the Iranian capitalists a boon.
Karam Ali Sayed Abadi, a worker, describes a typical process of privatization underway in Iran in the first issue of Karmozd (Wage-Labor): State-owned factory managers drive their enterprises to bankruptcy by sabotaging production; then they and their partners purchase the factory from the state at bargain prices.
The new owners and managers then proceed to lay off or “buy back” all or most of the workers, only to hire some back at much lower wages and worse working conditions. Less profitable operations are sub-contracted to outfits that can exploit their workers even more.
With high unemployment-and lacking independent trade unions, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike-the workers face an uphill battle. As a result, a large section of the Iranian workers have to live with no earnings for months without any viable safety net.
There is a powerful undercurrent in workplaces to organize against this situation. It was in this context that Khaneh Kargar (Workers’ House, the national pro-government labor bureaucracy) and the leadership of the Islamic Shoras (factory councils) that secured their positions by collaborating with the Islamic Republic regime against militant workers and independent workers’ organizations backed an effort to issue a call for the right to strike on April 3.
They also gave their blessing to a street protest in Tehran by several thousand against the passage of legislation depriving 2.8 million workers of protection by the labor law. During that demonstration, the workers disclosed their plans for a national action on May Day to press for their demands.
Given the scope of the anti-democratic attacks in April, it was not clear if a May Day demonstration by the workers would actually take place in Tehran. However, over 20,000 workers, mostly from Tehran industrial regions, participated. The main target of the workers’ anger was Ali-naghi Khamushi, the chairman of the chamber and the outgoing parliament. The workers demanded that the incoming parliamentary assembly, dominated by those who promised political and social reforms, reverse the anti-labor legislation.
Workers also demanded jobs for all. A demand was put to the government to fight unemployment and to inspect the factories claiming bankruptcy. Hossein Kamali, who was part of the pro-government forces within the labor movement that took over Khaneh Kargar in 1979 and has been the minister of labor for the past several administrations, called for the expulsion of over 2 million immigrant workers, mostly from Afghanistan, to create jobs for “our youth [who] aimlessly walk the streets and take drugs because they neither have jobs nor a future.”
The Islamic Labor Party, formed by these very same forces last year to campaign for pro-reform candidates, urged the new parliament to legalize strikes. While strikes are not legal, work stoppages are frequent. The leadership of Khaneh Kargar and the Islamic Shoras tried to steer the demonstration into a support rally for Khatami and the reformist coalition.
Struggles are intertwined
The factional struggles within the Islamic Republic reflect the crisis of a regime run by the clergy on the basis of on-going capitalist development in Iran and the world. Ahmad Moollazadeh, whose journal, Farhang-e Tousse’e (Culture of Development) has favored the reform coalition, describes the current divide in the sphere of public policy in Iran in the following terms:
“On one side of this divide stand the clergy who know what is right today [for the religious establishment], modern thinking religious and non-religious intellectuals, the modern middle class, and the industrialists. These are known as the reformists.
“On the other side of the divide are those who want violence, conservative traditionalists, and new conservative rationalists. The bulk of the social basis for these favor social justice but their lack of engagement in class conflict, their unemployment, and lack of a clear perspective for future draw them to the main organizers of violence [in society].”
Moollazadeh points to those who benefit from “political rent” and “economic rent”-that is, those who control the state apparatus and those who benefit from control of government held economic assets-as forces that stand to benefit from the existing order, which opposes reforms.
However, it is the Iranian workers and students who have stood up against the current crackdown by the Islamic Republic regime. In fact, the fundamental lesson of Iranian modern history is that the fight for freedom of the press and democratic and human rights are closely intertwined with the struggle of the workers and toilers to form their own independent organizations and to press their own demands.
These struggles include those of workers to form unions and build international ties to resist massive onslaught by the employers and the government, of women to unite to resist Islamic and class oppression, and of writers and journalists to forge their own organization to defend their rights against the censorship.
They also point to the need for united organization and action of the students and youth, who have a stake in shaping the future of the country and still have the task of fighting for the freedom of hundreds of their comrades jailed in the aftermath of protests last July that captured the imagination of the world.
The recent crackdown comes in this context; it is part of a larger campaign to roll back the greater space for political expression won in recent years by the Iranian people and to suppress their desire for social and political change. The Iranian people are resisting the repression, and it should be opposed by working people everywhere.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2801. Cuba Embarks on a 100-Year Plan to Protect Itself from Climate Change

By Richard Stone, Science Magazine, January 10, 2018
Habaneros wade through floodwaters near El Malecón after Hurricane Irma.
On its deadly run through the Caribbean last September, Hurricane Irma lashed northern Cuba, inundating coastal settlements and scouring away vegetation. The powerful storm dealt Havana only a glancing blow; even so, 10-meter waves pummeled El Malecón, the city’s seaside promenade, and ravaged stately but decrepit buildings in the capital’s historic district. “There was great destruction,” says Dalia Salabarría Fernández, a marine biologist here at the National Center for Protected Areas (CNAP).

As the flood waters receded, she says, “Cuba learned a very important lesson.” With thousands of kilometers of low-lying coast and a location right in the path of Caribbean hurricanes, which many believe are intensifying because of climate change, the island nation must act fast to gird against future disasters.

Irma lent new urgency to a plan, called Tarea Vida, or Project Life, adopted last spring by Cuba’s Council of Ministers. A decade in the making, the program bans construction of new homes in threatened coastal areas, mandates relocating people from communities doomed by rising sea levels, calls for an overhaul of the country’s agricultural system to shift crop production away from saltwater-contaminated areas, and spells out the need to shore up coastal defenses, including by restoring degraded habitat. “The overarching idea,” says Salabarría Fernández, “is to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities.”

But the cash-strapped government had made little headway. Now, “Irma [has] indicated to everybody that we need to implement Tarea Vida in a much more rapid way,” says Orlando Rey Santos, head of the environment division at Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA) here, which is spearheading the project. The government aims to spend at least $40 million on Project Life this year, and it has approached overseas donors for help. Italy was the first to respond, pledging $3.4 million to the initiative in November 2017. A team of Cuban experts has just finished drafting a $100 million proposal that the government plans to submit early this year to the Global Climate Fund, an international financing mechanism set up under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Many countries with vulnerable coastlines are contemplating similar measures, and another island nation—the Seychelles— has offered to collaborate on boosting coastal protection in Cuba. But Project Life stands out for taking a long view: It intends to prepare Cuba for climatological impacts over the next century. “It’s impressive,” says marine scientist David Guggenheim, president of Ocean Doctor, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that has projects in Cuba. “Cuba is an unusual country in that they actually respect their scientists, and their climate change policy is science driven.”

Rising sea levels pose the most daunting challenge for Cuba. Over the past half-century, CITMA says, average sea levels have risen some 7 centimeters, wiping out low-lying beaches and threatening marsh vegetation, especially along Cuba’s southern midsection. The coastal erosion is “already much worse than anyone expected,” Salabarría Fernández says. Storms drive the rising seas farther inland, contaminating coastal aquifers and croplands.

Still worse is in store, even in conservative scenarios of sea-level rise, which forecast an 85-centimeter increase by 2100. According to the latest CITMA forecast, seawater incursion will contaminate nearly 24,000 square kilometers of land this century. About 20% of that land could become submerged. “That means several percent of Cuban land will be underwater,” says Armando Rodríguez Batista, director of science, technology, and innovation at CITMA.

To shore up the coastlines, Project Life aims to restore mangroves, which constitute about a quarter of Cuba’s forest cover. “They are the first line of defense for coastal communities. But so many mangroves are dying now,” Salabarría Fernández says. Leaf loss from hurricane-force winds, erosion, spikes in salinity, and nutrient imbalances could all be driving the die-off, she says.

Coral reefs can also buffer storms. A Cuban-U.S. expedition that circumnavigated the island last spring found that many reefs are in excellent health, says Juliett González Méndez, a marine ecologist with CNAP. But at a handful of hot spots, reefs exposed to industrial effluents are ailing, she says. One Project Life target is to squelch runoff and restore those reefs.

Another pressing need is coastal engineering. Topping Cuba’s wish list are jetties or other wave-disrupting structures for protecting not only the iconic Malecón, but also beaches and scores of tiny keys frequented by tourists whose spending is a lifeline for many Cubans. Cuba has appealed to the Netherlands to lend its expertise in coastal engineering.

Perhaps the thorniest element of Project Life is a plan to relocate low-lying villages. As the sea invades, “some communities will disappear,” Salabarría Fernández says. The first relocations under the initiative took place in October 2017, when some 40 families in Palmarito, a fishing village in central Cuba, were moved inland.

Other communities may not need to pull up stakes for decades. But Cuban social scientists are already fanning out to those ill-fated villages to educate people on climate change and win them over on the eventual need to move. That’s an easier sell in the wake of a major hurricane, Rodríguez Batista says. “Irma has helped us with public awareness,” he says. “People understand that climate change is happening now.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

2800. Summary and Index for the Past 99 Posts

By Kamran Nayeri, Janaury 19, 2018
Assistant Editor, Siah, who has joined the editorial office since December 20.

Of the last 99 posts, 28 were about socialism and ecosocialism, 12 were about climate change, 11 were about the recent protests in Iran which had a water crisis (ecological) component, six were about feminist issues, capitalis and ecocide had five posts each, Cuba, and literature/peoty each had four posts, and science/philosophy, health,

climate change/global warming. Science-related had 10 posts.  Socialism and eco-socialism combined had 16 posts (eight each).  There were six posts about the Sixth Extinction and six about the Cuban revolution.  Other topics with four or so posts included philosophy, the arts and literature, and White Supremacy/Neo-Nazism.  

Hyperlinks to posts follow:

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2799. Book Review: Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy

By Steve Knight, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books, January 19, 2018

In the 135 years since his passing, many commentators on Marx’s work have maintained that his view of humanity’s relationship to the Earth is “Promethean,” i.e., that mastery over nature is a key step to achieving the communist state. A counter-tendency in Marxian analysis, however, led first in the 1960s and 70s by scholars like Raymond Williams and Istvan Meszaros, then in the past twenty years by a new generation including John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett, has maintained that ecology’s conflict with capitalist relations is central to understanding Marx’s political economy.
Kohei Saito, author of Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism, belongs firmly in the latter camp. For Saito, associate professor at Osaka City University, Marx is not simply an economist who sometimes refers to nature; he insists that “it is not possible to comprehend the full scope of his critique of political economy if one ignores its ecological dimension…Marx actually deals with the whole of nature, the ‘material’ world, as a place of resistance against capital, where the contradictions of capitalism are manifested most clearly.” (14) Drawing extensively upon Marx’s “excerpt notebooks” that have been published as part of the ongoing research project Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (aka MEGA), the author paints a compelling portrait of Marx first as a young man with a philosophical conviction of how capitalist relations alienate us from nature, then as a determined student of natural sciences, eager to find scientific verification of the ecological contradictions of capital.
In Part One, “Ecology and Economy,” Saito traces the systematic development of Marx’s ecological critique from the Paris Notebooks of the 1840s through the mature work of Capital. Marx’s Paris work (a portion of which was published in the twentieth century with the title Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts) shows a young scholar still under the philosophical influence of Feuerbach and the Young Hegelian school. He develops his fourfold definition of alienation under capitalist relations: within capitalism, Marx claims, one becomes alienated from the product of the one’s labor, from the labor process itself, from one’s free and creative “species-being,” and from one’s fellow workers. Marx proposes overcoming these forms of alienation through the abolition of private property (the product of alienated labor), so that humans can relate to nature in a free, cooperative manner. While he arrived at valuable insights in this period that laid the groundwork for later ecological thinking, Marx at this point was still enamored of an ahistorical, Feuerbachian idealism that he would need to transcend in order to make way for the “scientific socialism” informing his later work.
The turning point in Marx’s materialist critique came with The German Ideology (1846), manuscripts he co-wrote with Friedrich Engels. Here Marx shifts from a purely philosophical approach to ecology, into a “natural scientific” one based on a historical understanding of evolving relations between humans and nature. He begins using the term “metabolism”—a concept first used in the nineteenth century by physiologists, later by philosophers—to describe this dynamic interchange, where nature becomes man’s “inorganic body” upon which he depends for survival. Over the next decade, culminating in his writing of the Grundrisse in the mid-1850s, Marx refined his understanding of the concept to posit a general metabolic tendency of capital: in aiming for continuous expansion, capitalism exploits natural forces--including human labor power--in search of cheaper inputs; but this process deepens capitalism’s own contradictions (deforestation, carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, etc.), all of which have intensified since the time of Marx’s writing. Human civilization will likely become impossible long before capital accumulation ceases due to ecological degradation; therefore, capitalism’s metabolic relations are incompatible with sustainable human development.
Saito’s analysis is also valuable for the emphasis it gives to the concept of “reification” as a keystone of Marx’s ecosocialism. While reification perhaps receives its fullest expression in the chapters on “The Working Day” and “Machinery and Large-Scale Industry” in Volume 1 of Capital, Marx developed it gradually as part of his ecological critique. In brief, reification refers to the process whereby private producers exchange commodities whose value is determined as the sum total of abstract labor used in their production. Nature’s materials are molded into economic forms, and those forms become ossified into “things,” but these material things can never be fully subsumed under capital. Thus, capital threatens the continuity of man’s metabolism with nature, by reorganizing nature to extract the maximum amount of abstract labor; reification insures that society can be produced—and reproduced—only through the mediation of value. Saito clarifies the point nicely:
Marx does not simply claim that humanity destroys the environment. Rather, his ‘materialist method’ investigates how the reified movement of capital reorganizes the transhistorical metabolism between humans and nature and negates the fundamental material condition for sustainable human development. Accordingly, Marx’s socialist project demands the rehabilitation of the humans-nature relationship through the restriction and finally the transcendence of the alien force of reification. (133)
In Part II, “Marx’s Ecology and the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe,” Saito scrutinizes newly available material from Marx’s natural science notebooks, showing the many writers Marx studied carefully for years to refine his ecological critique of capital. Saito concedes that there is some evidence that Marx’s earlier thinking about nature was “productivist,” i.e., he was optimistic that scientific and technological advances could overcome nature’s limits. His excerpts from the earlier editions of Justus von Liebig’s Agricultural Chemistry and James F.W. Johnston’s Notes on North America, both published in the 1850s, strike a hopeful note that David Ricardo’s law of diminishing agricultural returns could be overcome through improved soil science and land management. Liebig’s earlier work assumed that productivity could be improved through the use of synthetic fertilizers (a convenient position, perhaps, for an agronomist with a sideline capitalist business as a manufacturer of chemical fertilizer!).
The turning point for both Liebig and Marx, however, was the publication of the seventh edition of Agricultural Chemistry in 1862, where Liebig adopted a darker theory of “robbery agriculture” under capitalist relations. Liebig now posited a “law of replenishment,” in which soil needs a mixture of organic and inorganic elements to maintain productivity. While organic elements can be replenished continuously through the atmosphere and rainfall, the loss of inorganic (“mineral”) elements must be minimized as they are much harder to replace under the pressure of capitalist production. Reading Liebig’s seventh edition “deepened his [Marx’s] insight that nature cannot be arbitrarily subordinated and manipulated through technological development. There are insurmountable natural limits.” (160) Marx’s demand for the rational regulation of human-nature metabolism sprang from the recognition of natural limits, as well as that social production must be radically reorganized to achieve sustainable human development. Capitalism, Marx realized, is inherently inimical to this more rational metabolism, as it mediates all relations through reified values.
Liebig’s idea of robbery agriculture became one source of inspiration for Marx’s theory of a “metabolic rift” between town and country in the first volume of Capital (discussed at some length by John Bellamy Foster in his book Marx’s Ecology). But Saito’s access to the MEGA notebooks reveals that following the publication of Capital in 1867, Marx began reading another agronomist, Carl Fraas, whose work—especially his 1866 book Agrarian Crises and Their Remedies—both modified his previously unqualified praise of Liebig, and opened a new scientific window for understanding capitalism’s ecological contradictions. Fraas espoused an “agricultural physics” counterpoised to Liebig’s “agricultural chemistry”; while he did not discount the importance of much of Liebig’s work, he believed that climatic factors were of more importance than chemical ones to soil productivity. Fraas writes at one point that cultivation can take place without exhaustion in a favorable climate even if nutrients are not returned to the soil in a metabolic cycle by humans.
Fraas also maintained—particularly in another of his studies, Climate and the Plant World Over Time—that deforestation was the primary driver of climate change, as it inevitably led to rising temperatures and lower humidity (i.e., desertification), tracing this as an historical tendency in the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. The problem, according to Fraas, is that civilization consumes an enormous amount of wood in activities like building ships and houses, as well as producing iron and sugar; therefore replanting deforested land is often not feasible. Saito observes that “Marx, reading Fraas’s work, rightly thinks it necessary to study much more thoroughly the negative aspect of the development of productive forces and technology and their disruption of natural metabolism with regard to other factors of production.” (250)
Much work remains for future scholars to plumb the development of Marx’s ecosocialism. As Saito points out, the MEGA project has to date published Marx’s excerpt notebooks only up to 1868; notebooks that track his developing ecological awareness over his final fifteen years await full publication of the fourth section of the MEGA. Nevertheless, “Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism” is an indispensable addition to the burgeoning literature on Marxian ecosocialism. Kohei Saito provides an intellectually rigorous, yet accessible, guide for readers not only as to why healing capital’s ecological rifts was essential to Marx’s socialist project, but also how Marx’s decades-long reading project in the natural sciences informed his analysis from The German Ideology onwards. “Marx did not answer all of the questions and did not predict today’s world,” Saito writes in his conclusion, “but it is does not follow that his ecology is of no use today. It is undeniable that his critique of capitalism provides an extremely helpful theoretical foundation for further critical investigation of the current ecological crisis, and that with regard to ecology Marx’s notebooks can prove their great importance.” (265) Ecosocialists everywhere should appreciate Saito’s meticulous elucidation of Marx’s evolving understanding of capital’s incompatibility with the earth.

2798. Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern

By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times, January 18, 2018
Lake Uromia in northwestern Iran has shrunk by 90% since the 1970s. Photo: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Image

UNITED NATIONS — Nigeria. Syria. Somalia. And now Iran.
In each country, in different ways, a water crisis has triggered some combination of civil unrest, mass migration, insurgency or even full-scale war.

In the era of climate change, their experiences hold lessons for a great many other countries. The World Resources Institute warned this month of the rise of water stress globally, “with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040.”

A water shortage can spark street protests: Access to water has been a common source of unrest in India. It can be exploited by terrorist groups: The Shabab has sought to take advantage of the most vulnerable drought-stricken communities in Somalia. Water shortages can prompt an exodus from the countryside to crowded cities: Across the arid Sahel, young men unable to live off the land are on the move. And it can feed into insurgencies: Boko Haram stepped into this breach in Nigeria, Chad and Niger.

Iran is the latest example of a country where a water crisis, long in the making, has fed popular discontent. That is particularly true in small towns and cities in what is already one of the most parched regions of the world. Farms turned barren, lakes became dust bowls. Millions moved to provincial towns and cities, and joblessness led to mounting discontent among the young. Then came a crippling drought, lasting roughly 14 years.

In short, a water crisis — whether caused by nature, human mismanagement, or both — can be an early warning signal of trouble ahead. A panel of retired United States military officials warned in December that water stress, which they defined as a shortage of fresh water, would emerge as “a growing factor in the world’s hot spots and conflict areas.”

“With escalating global population and the impact of a changing climate, we see the challenges of water stress rising with time,” the retired officials concluded in the report by CNA, a research organization based in Arlington, Virginia.

Climate change is projected to make Iran hotter and drier. A former Iranian agriculture minister, Issa Kalantari, once famously said that water scarcity, if left unchecked, would make Iran so harsh that 50 million Iranians would leave the country altogether. 

Is water the reason for the latest unrest in Iran?
Not entirely. Water alone doesn’t explain the outbreak of protests that began in early January and spread swiftly across the country. But as David Michel, an analyst at the Stimson Center put it, the lack of water — whether it’s dry taps in the city, or dry wells in the countryside, or dust storms rising from a shrinking Lake Urmia — is one of the most common, most visible markers of the government’s failure to deliver basic services.

“Water is not going to bring down the government,” he said. “But it’s a component — in some towns, a significant component — of grievances and frustrations.”

Managing water, he said, is the government’s “most important policy challenge.”

How did it get this bad?
Like many countries, from India to Syria, Iran after the 1979 revolution set out to be self-sufficient in food. It wasn’t a bad goal, in and of itself. But as the Iranian water expert Kaveh Madani points out, it meant that the government encouraged farmers to plant thirsty crops like wheat throughout the country. The government went further by offering farmers cheap electricity and favorable prices for their wheat — effectively a generous two-part subsidy that served as an incentive to plant more and more wheat and extract more and more groundwater.

The result: “25 percent of the total water that is withdrawn from aquifers, rivers and lakes exceeds the amount that can be replenished” by nature, according to Claudia Sadoff, a water specialist who prepared a report for the World Bank on Iran’s water crisis.

Iran’s groundwater depletion rate is today among the fastest in the world, so much so that by Mr. Michel’s calculations, 12 of the country’s 31 provinces “will entirely exhaust their aquifers within the next 50 years.” In parts of the country, the groundwater loss is causing the land to sink.

Water is a handy political tool, and to curry favor with their rural base, Iran’s leaders — and particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — dammed rivers across the country to divert water to key areas. As a result, many of Iran’s lakes have shrunk. That includes Lake Urmia, once the region’s largest saltwater lake, which has diminished in size by nearly 90 percent since the early 1970s.

Does climate change play a role?
According to the government, Iran expects a 25 percent decline in surface water runoff — rainfall and snow melt — by 2030. In the region as a whole, summers are predicted to get hotter, by two to three degrees Celsius at current rates of warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Rains are projected to decline by 10 percent.
A 2015 study by two scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology predicted that, at current rates of warming, “many major cities in the region could exceed a tipping point for human survival.”

For the leaders of water-stressed countries, the most sobering lesson comes from nearby Syria. Its drought, stretching from 2006 to 2009, prompted a mass migration from country to city and then unemployment among the young. Frustrations built up. And in 2011, street protests broke out, only to be crushed by the government of Bashar al-Assad. It piled on to long-simmering frustrations of Syrians under Mr. Assad’s authoritarian rule. A civil war erupted, reshaping the Middle East.

Water, said Julia McQuaid, the deputy director of CNA, doesn’t lead straight to conflict. “It can be catalyst,” she said. “It can be a thing that breaks the system.”