Wednesday, 20 July 2016

On the Decline of the Left -- the Debate Continues

In the recent past, I have posted on this blog-site three short texts of mine, actually critical comments, on the above subject1.2.3. I think the debate needs to be continued. Because unless capitalism is overcome and a sustainable and egalitarian world society takes its place, the situation in future would be far more dire than what we are observing today, all over the world as well as in India. Overcoming capitalism and creating an egalitarian society has always been the task of the Left. Having that in mind, I have again published two critical comments on articles written by two well-known Indian scholar-journalists and published in the online daily news magazine The Wire. I am reproducing these texts of mine below. The links will lead to the original articles on which I have commented. I would like to request my readers to read these articles first and then my critical comments.


It is great that Kamal Mitra Chenoy (KMC for short) calls upon the Indian Left to read more. Indeed, generally speaking, Indian leftists (even those who occupy leading positions in their respective parties) read too little, which is however understandable given the lack of time and energy. However, even those who read a lot do not read the texts that need to be read urgently. But what KMC recommends them to read are not the most important ones.
    The flaw lies in his starting position. He writes: "
I speak only as a Marxist." But why should he speak only as a Marxist? Why should he not speak generally, as a socialist? Marx and Engels were philosophers of the second half of the 19th century. They tried to analyse the world as it was in those days. Is it not necessary, 132 years after Marx's death, to take cognizance of the developments that have taken place in this period?
    Good that KMC writes: "
Environment is a very important issue. ... environmental problems ... must be dealt with as a huge crisis waiting to happen. Environmental issues have to be given priority by the Left and democratic forces." Marx and Engels were very much aware of the environmental degradations that had already taken place (and were taking place) in their days. Yet, for their analysis, they did not draw any consequence from this awareness, nor did all their disciples up until now.
    Should leftists give priority to this issue, then they, including KMC, should realize that a
paradigm shift is long overdue: a shift from the growth-and-development paradigm, within which all leftists have been thinking till now, to what I call the limits-to-growth paradigm. If they carry out this shift in their thinking, then and only then would they understand why Marxism's relevance has waned and is waning further.
    Then the most important texts that they should urgently read is the Limits to Growth (1972) by Meadows et al. and some basic writings of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen. For those who are willing to read a little more because they not only want to analyze the world but also to change it, I recommend my own books and writings: (1) Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? (1999; Zed Books, London), (2) The Crises of CapitalismA Different Study of Political Economy (2012; Counterpoint, Berkeley).


I have now read two very well written articles on the decline of "the Left" in India – this one by Kuldeep Kumar (KK for short) and that of Kamal Mitra Chenoy (KMC for short) entitled
The Indian Left Has to Move Beyond Lenin’s Rigid Formulations on the Role of the Party, also published in this website. Both are comrades, (has been or still are) associated with this or that incarnation of the original Communist Party of India, both are very well versed in Marxist communist literature and history, past and present. Yet, I must say they have both missed the main point.
    If continued adherence to Leninist
undemocratic centralism in post-independence India were the main cause of the decline of the Indian Left (especially that of the CPIM), as KK maintains, then a reform introducing democratic centralism should suffice to revive the appeal of the various Leninist CPIs. Or if the main cause were the fact that the Indian Left leaders have not read enough, particularly Gramsci's works , as KMC thinks, then it would be very easy to repair the damage. Unfortunately, the matter is not that easy.
    I am sure many members and leaders of the
Euro-Communist parties of Europe had read Gramsci, the parties themselves had become democratic communist parties in and since the mid 1970s. The result? Berlinguer's Communist Party of Italy does not exist any more. The communists rapidly became Social-Democrats, changed the name of the Party accordingly, and are today, as the ruling party, managing Capitalism in Italy. The Communist Party of France, as far as I know, still exists as a small fringe party, but hardly anybody outside France hears anything about them. And does anybody know what the Communist Party of Spain, if it still exists, is doing? PODEMOS is all the rage today.
    KK and KMC have heavily criticised the outdated Leninist decision-making process of the CPI(M) (maybe also of the other CPIs) and the way it disciplines "deviationists". But maybe the main cause of their decline lies in the outdatedness of their programme, which the two erudite writers do not even mention. In the recent decades, the ruling Left'soffer to the voters of West Bengal had been: "if you vote for us, we shall see to it that you get something: more income, jobs, some much needed infrastructures". In Bengali it was called "paiye debar rajnity." To be more kind to them, the offer was development and prosperity through industrialization. But if that was all that India needed, and since that was all that the chiefly election-oriented left parties promised, certainly the congress governments of Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh did more to fulfil these needs.
     In the days of Gramsci, the programme of all communist parties of the world was to make a revolution in order to build a socialist society. It is for this programme that they, Gramsci advised them, ought to try to attain cultural hegemony. That programme has been given up by all left parties.
    But what is revolution today? Walter Benjamin, a contemporary of Gramsci, presciently wrote the following:"Marx says revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps it is entirely different. Revolutions are perhaps the attempt of humanity travelling in a train to pull the emergency brake." In my interpretation it would read today: A de-growth movement and a contracting economy must urgently bring to a stop the train of unending economic growth/development. That means, socialism of the 21st century is eco-socialism.


What It Means to Be Leftist

2. A Communist Party in Power in a Capitalist State – Misdirected Critique

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Once More on the Viability of Renewable Energies

For some years in the past, I more or less withdrew from the debate/discussion on the above subject. We were not making any progress. The optimists continued repeating like a religious mantra ("100% renewables") that in 20-30 years all energy needs of human society will be (can be) supplied by renewables. No arguments of the skeptics like me were being taken seriously. I gave up, saying "Just wait another 10 years! By then the issue will be decided." I started saying that about five years ago. But already now it appears that the optimists are no longer so sure. In an article written by Ugo Bardi1, a member of the Club of Rome, also published in a popular Indian internet journal (, I read that more and more people, even experts, are expressing their skepticism. So I again joined the debate.
    Ugo Bardi and other optimists of today are of course still expressing optimism. But they are no longer as euphorically optimistic about renewable energies as, for example, the late high priest of solar energy euphoria Hermann Scheer (former president of Eurosolar). They are now roughly saying, 100% renewables is possible, but it will not be easy, and we must in future change the way we are living today in industrial societies; we must be satisfied with less. That is some progress. But the illusions still remain.
    So I intervened again, with two comments and a letter to a friend. They are appended below with several references.

Sarkar's 1st comment:

I just read Ugo Bardi's article with interest. I am not a scientist, never tried myself to measure the EROEI or the EPBT (Energy Payback Time) of any energy technology. But I am very interested in the question, for obvious reasons. I am trying to keep abreast of the news on this matter. But I am not convinced that the EROEI of photovoltaic technology is that high (Bardi estimated 11-12).
    The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If the assertion of Bardi were true, then there would not be any reason at all for
India, much richer in sunshine than Italy, to still build new (I stress new) coal-fired power plants and to import huge quantities of coal and oil and pay high amounts of precious foreign exchange to foreigners. If the matter were that simple, the problem of global warming would have been solved long ago.
    The first author of the paper Bardi refers to appears to be an Indian (or of Indian origin). Why doesn't he go to New Delhi and persuade the Indian government to cover all desert and semi-arid areas of the country with photovoltaic panels? After all, only a few months ago, at COP21, India was heavily criticized for obstructing the process of reaching a global agreement.
    I think most studies that paint a rosy picture in this question tend not to count all (I stress all) energy costs (investments) needed in building a solar module. That is why, already in 1991, some researchers who, commissioned by the EU, made a study in Europe came to the conclusions (a) that in European climates, the average EPBT for photovoltaic modules were as low as 1.2 years and 2.1 (meaning EROEI was very high) and (b) that the EPBTs of the PV technologies developed till then were by and large "comparable to that of large-scale electricity production in fossil and nuclear power plants
".(quoted in: see note 4) We know that PV technologies, in spite of all subsidies and sundry favors, still cannot compete with fossil fuel based technologies of producing electricity.
    How researchers in this field ought to count all energy costs of an energy technology (not to be mixed up with money costs) can be read in a paper of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen on this subject (see note 3)

Sarkar's 2nd comment:

Dear Ugo, in real life it is very useful/necessary to take a round-about (indirect) way to reach a goal when there is no direct way to reach it. It is even scientific.
James Lovelock (of the Gaia hypothesis) did that when he (plus many other scientists) was asked by NASA to figure out whether there could be life on the Mars. He could not land on the Mars to find out the answer. So he asked, how would the atmosphere of Mars be if there were life on that planet.
    We are today faced with a vital real-life question: Can someday in near future fossil fuels be replaced by photovoltaic energy etc.? We cannot answer the question directly by "rigorously" counting the calories of energy invested in manufacturing all the equipment of PV technology because it is nearly impossible. That is why every researcher is guessing. Guesstimates are anything but rigorous. That is why so many different results are on the table. Nobody, for example, really knows what proportion of the energy costs of manufacturing the truck that is transporting the sand to the silicon smelter should be included in the energy costs of manufacturing a PV module. I do not want to write more on this point. Georgescu-Roegen (1978) put it more clearly.

A Letter to a Friend


Dear Johny,

many thanks for sending this article.2 I, like all of you, got the reference through reading the comments on Ugo Bardi's article in Cassandra's Legacy.2
    I think the whole debate is a little out of focus. Which end of the formula should we pay more attention to? To ER or to EI? Counting both exactly would be good. But only ER can be counted exactly by attaching meters to every PV-module. Nobody can deny that ER may improve in course of time through technological improvements in the modules. But that does not help much because it is very difficult to exactly count the EI (energy invested on pro rata calculation basis) in every module. Even if you are satisfied with average figures at any given latitude and in any given climate zone, it is very difficult. How difficult it is can be realized if you ask the question: where should one begin the counting? Here a reading of Georgescu-Roegens 1978 paper3 is very important. (I did that in the 1980s and summarized GR's argument in my book.4) If one reads it, one would realize that most modern estimates of EI per module are wrong.
    My new idea has been to come to a provisional conclusion on the basis of a round about method following James Lovelock's method of intelligently guessing whether there could be life on the Mars (referred to in my second comment on Bardi's article. See above.). Coming to a provisional conclusion reg. the EROEI of both PV and Wind-turbine technologies is important because, all people agree, burning more and more fossil fuels must end if we really want to save the planet. So I asked (in my opinion the very important question) why India still wants to double coal extraction in the next five years although it is among the most sun-rich countries of the world.5 It must do that because Indian energy experts & engineers are not convinced that the EROEI of PV technology is sufficiently high to justify leaving India's coal wealth in the ground.
    Another point I made (see my article on Krugman's folly6) is that the energy cost (EI) of producing PV or wind energy modules (as distinct from money cost) is continuously and inevitably rising (even if you leave aside the equipment and processes for storing and distributing the renewable energies) because the materials (including coal and uranium) that are used to build/manufacture all the equipment are becoming increasingly difficult to access.
    And finally, the difference between
feasibility and viability, that we should learn from Georgescu-Roegen. Renewable energies are feasible but not viable. This point was indeed made in a comment (by "foodnstuff")7 on Bardi's article. But it was unfortunately ignored by all (except me).
    Finally, I request you to retrieve the paper of Georgescu-Roegen and publish it in some website (it was published before the internet age). Then it can be circulated without any problem.
    I am also going to post this piece in your Simplicity Forum. But before doing so I must add the references. For that I need some time. In the meantime I am sending it to you and ...  as an e-mail.

With warm regards


Notes and References:

1. Ugo Bardi (2016) "But What is the Real Energy Return of Photovoltaic Energy?"

2. "Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) for photovoltaic solar systems in regions of moderate insolation", by FerruccioFerroni a,n, RobertJ.Hopkirk
Energy Policy
journal homepage:

3. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas (1978) "Technology Assessment: The Case of the Direct Use of Solar Energy", in Atlantic Economic Journal, December.

4. Sarkar, Saral (1999) Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? London: Zed.
5. Sarkar, Saral :
A Historic Event or a Fraud?....

6. Saral Sarkar (2014)
Krugman's Illusion …..

7. Foodnstuff : comment/questions:

foodnstuffMay 23, 2016 at 7:53 PM

I still want to know if the following can be done and does the EROEI quoted include it all (plus extra energy demand I haven't thought of):

(1). Mine the raw materials using equipment powered by solar panels.
(2). Transport and convert metal ores, eg bauxite -> aluminium, using equipment run by solar panels and in a factory built using the energy from solar panels.
(3). Make the finished panels in a factory run by solar panels, including building and maintaining the factory.
(4). Transport, install and maintain the solar panels using equipment running on solar panels.

All this is presently being done with the energy from fossil fuels.
How will it be done when they are gone?


Saturday, 12 March 2016

A Communist Party in Power in a Capitalist State -- Misdirected Critique

(A letter to the editor)

Reg. CPI(M)'s Congress Crutch;
in: Frontier, Vol. 48, No.30, Jan.31–Feb 6 2016

Dear sir,

The anonymous author of the article (for short, AA) criticizes the West Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
in two respects: (1) in respect of the state of moral fiber of the party's cadre and (2) in respect of the party's political and economic policies during its long rule in that province. Seen superficially, the critique may appear to be justified in both respects, but it should not have been directed at a particular unit of a particular communist party that happened to rule in a province of a federally constituted capitalist state. It should have been directed at, if a little generalization is allowed, all or nearly all communist parties of the world that sometime or other ruled over a country.

(1) Anybody having some knowledge of world history of the last hundred years knows of the moral degeneration of various kinds that set in, sooner or later, after a revolutionary communist party became a ruling party. That was the case in the Soviet Union, and that is the case in China and Vietnam.* The case of Cuba still remains to be investigated.
    The erstwhile "socialist" republics of Eastern Europe were ruled by communist parties that did not have to make their own revolution. They had power handed to them by the Soviet Red Army on a platter. So their moral degeneration, if that had taken place during their tenure of power, does not contain any lesson of great significance. For their mentor, the all-powerful Stalinist Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was already a morally degenerated party.
    It must be said to the credit of the CPI(M) that it did not get, but won power, albeit very limited, by organizing, leading, and taking part in movements of the masses for a better life. Many of its cadre, although they could not be called revolutionaries, were inspired by a high ideal (I know that) and accepted a life of many sacrifices before they came to power. But power corrupted them too, from the provincial capital level to the village level – not all of them, to be sure, but the majority.
    In view of the apparently universal experience mentioned above, it is pointless to criticize the CPI(M) cadre and functionaries for failing to have become the kind of new men that Mayakovsky, inter alia, had expected of the Soviet communists who were in complete control of everything in their country.
    Today, what is needed is a deeper and analytical study of this ubiquitous negative phenomenon, with, I suggest, help of psychology, ethology, anthropology, and some other social sciences.

(2) As to economic development of West Bengal, nobody in his senses could have in those days demanded from the CPI(M)-led government that it should pursue a really socialist policy. Even if it had wanted to try to do something in a really socialist sense within the limited power that a provincial government enjoys in India, it could have done so, I guess, only at the risk of being dismissed by the central government. That was the fate of the communist government of Kerala in 1957.
    AA writes that in the early years of the CPI(M) rule "there were large scopes of organizing the benefited peasants into various kinds of cooperatives". Maybe that is true. But peasants organized in cooperatives could only have initiated some rural development and created some rural jobs in rural small industries. However, in any development theory including socialist ones – except those of Gandhi and his followers – the goal was, and still is, transition from a poor underdeveloped agricultural economy to a prosperous industrial economy. In such theories, also small-scale farming was to be developed to large-scale mechanized farming entailing reduction in the number of people working in the agriculture sector. This was/is deemed to be necessary not only to bring prosperity in the rural areas but also to make more and more labor available to the expanding industries sector.
    Another point that has been ignored by AA is that during the 34 years long rule of the CPI(M), both the total population of West Bengal and the number of unemployed and precariously employed people in the province had been continuously rising. For instance, in the decade between 2001 and 2011 the population increased by 11.17 million.
    Against the background of these facts, the CPI(M) had no other choice but to pursue the economic policy that it did, to industrialize. It has after all never been a Gandhian party! And the people of India had rejected Gandhian economic theories long ago. AA criticizes the CPI(M) for having pursued a "pro-corporate policy of industrialization and development". But both China and Vietnam did the same.1 They had to. For the CPI(M), a Nehruvian policy of "socialistic pattern" of planned industrialization for West Bengal was out of question, for no government of West Bengal could have raised the necessary capital itself.
    Any industrial project needs land, water, and the necessary infrastructure. With 90 million people living in a small and densely populated area, these things had to be taken away from the peasants. The only thing that was open to negotiation in Singur and Nandigram2 was the kind and size of compensation. The only justified criticism against the CPI(M) has been that a communist government did the unthinkable: it ordered the police to kill poor peasants and their supporters in the interest of development.


1. The case of China is well-known. For the case of Vietnam, I recommend my article Victorious in War But Defeated in Peace – How Development-Socialism Ended in Capitalism.

2. In Singur, the Tata Group was to build a huge car factory for producing their cheap cars christened Nano. The project failed to materialize due to strong resistance from the peasants and their anti-CPI(M) supporters. In Nandigram, where the shooting and killing of 15 people took place, a South Korean corporation was to build a large chemicals factory.

Friday, 11 March 2016

General Theory of Decline of the Old Left

(This discussion-contribution is written in the form of a letter to the author of the review-article Reinventing the Indian Left published in the online journal Alternatives – International Journal on Wednesday 2 March 2016 by Satya Sagar).


Dear Mr. Satya Sagar,

You may or may not know me from reading. If interested, you may go to Google and Amazon. There you will find enough info about me.

First, many thanks for your detailed review of Praful Bidwai's book. I do not think I shall come to reading the 600 page book. So your review of the same was very useful. But I already knew a lot about the history of the Left in India.
    Currently, my main interest in reading articles on the Indian Left is to find out whether they have come (or are slowly coming) to any new conclusion after their decline. You have now given me the motivation and a chance to add and discuss some crucial points about left politics made in the book as well as in your review.
    I had met Praful once, but that was long ago and without having enough time to really discuss anything seriously. About a year or two before his passing away, at the suggestion of Sumanta Bannerjee (whom you might know), I wrote to him with the request that he consider the points I have made in my writings. (I did not get any real response.) I am making the same request to you.

You write: Praful's book "is also impressively broad in scope, analyzing the Left from not just the usual parameters of redistribution of wealth, public welfare and workers’ rights but also ecology, gender and caste." In your review, however, I do not find anything that substantiates the claim that Praful had analyzed left politics (and its ultimate failure) in India also from the standpoint of one concerned about the ecology problematique. (It may also be an omission on your part.) Actually, at the latest after 1972, when the book Limits to Growth appeared, all political activists of the whole world should have changed their politics, indeed their whole thinking, radically. But they did not do that, because, I suppose, they were caught in inertia of the thought process. Herman Daly, I, and a few other writers, have accepted the required paradigm shift – the one that I call shift from the growth paradigm to the limits to growth paradigm. All my speeches and writings since about the mid 1970s have been informed by it.
    If one accepts this
compelling paradigm shift, one comes to very different conclusions in regard to analysis of the current world situation (including that in India) as well as in regard to the question of the future of human (and Indian) society. One then also comes to very different answers to the question: what is to be done at the present juncture? 1

The sorry plight of the Left is a global phenomenon. It began with the decline of the Soviet model of socialism and the subsequent implosion and break-up of the USSR. It was followed by the collapse of socialist societies in Eastern Europe. The communist parties of
China and Vietnam, of course, maintained their hold on power, but they had to transform their countries into capitalist ones.2 And the latest experiment, the "Bolivarian Revolution" of Venezuela, which Hugo Chavez called "socialism of the 21st century" is also rapidly unraveling. Against this general background, is it any surprise that the Indian Left also failed in West Bengal and Kerala and is rapidly declining? Any author who wants to write something analytical about the decline of the Indian Left or, for that matter, about any left movement anywhere in the world should keep this general background in mind.
That means, all failures of all left regimes, parties or movements must have had (and still has) a
general root cause (in addition to specific and local ones): It is the impossibility of fulfilling the continuously growing demands, aspirations and ambitions of a continuously growing world population, while our resource base is continuously dwindling and the ability of nature to absorb man-made pollution is continuously diminishing – in short, the lunatic idea that on a finite earth infinite growth of production, prosperity and population is possible.1
    It sounds like an
impossibility theorem that old leftists, socialists, communists, humanists, development-NGOs, and technology fans are loath to hear. Especially the last-mentioned ones seem never to have heard of the second law of thermodynamics, AKA the entropy law. But they must accept this impossibility as a fact, otherwise they would continue to sell only illusions, and never succeed in creating a better world, as opposed to a prosperous world. No amount of hard and sincere work, in power or out of power, no amount of mass mobilization for "redistribution of wealth, public welfare and workers’ rights" would help us realize the old vision of socialism.1

That means we must ditch
old socialism, especially cornucopian socialism and reinvent socialism which would be the scientific socialim of the 21st century. I, Bruno Kern, and many others call it eco-socialism. But what are the prospects for eco-socialism? I think it has good prospects, but only if ....3 At least it is worth working for.

Let me stop here. I would be very glad if you read this letter. I would be especially glad if I hear from you.

In solidarity and with best wishes

Saral Sarkar


1. I have elaborated all these points in my two theoretical books: Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? – A Critical Analysis of Humanity's Fundamental Choices (Zed Books, London, 1999) and The Crises of Capitalism – A Different Study of Political Economy (Counterpoint, Berkeley, 2012). See also my various shorter writings published in my two blogs:; and

2. See my article on the transformations in Vietnam and China: Victorious in War But Defeated in Peace – How Development-Socialism Ended in Capitalism;postID=6972656501647922776;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=6;src=postname

3. See my article on this question: Prospects for Eco-Socialism

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A Historic Event or a Fraud? -- Critical Thoughts on the Paris Climate Accord

Considering that so much depends on whether global warming can be arrested soon, it was no wonder that all thinking people had turned their attention to Paris, where on 13th December the COP21 "successfully" ended, with great jubilation. I too followed the process through the media.

Positive and Negative Reactions

A day after, I read the following comments: (1) "Today is a historic day: as tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Paris, politicians finalized a major new global climate agreement". And (2) "It’s a fraud really, a fake,”… “It’s just bullshit…"1 The first was made by May Boeve, the US national organizer of, a big NGO, that is playing a leading role in the climate justice movement, the second by James Hansen, a former NASA scientist, considered the father of climate change awareness. Which one can we regard as the correct assessment?
    Given that nobody in my position has the time and energy to read all the reports and comments on the COP21, I hope that my readers would forgive me if I have overlooked some important point in the agreement or an important comment on it. But fairness demands that I also mention a middle position, for example that of Thomas Friedman, a liberal columnist of the New York Times. He wrote:"I had low expectations for the U.N. climate meeting, and it met all of them – beautifully. I say that without cynicism. Any global conference that includes so many countries can’t be expected to agree on much more than the lowest common denominator."2
    That is understandable. As far as I could follow, nobody had big expectations. But then I do not understand how May and other prominent people of big NGOs can be so enthusiastic about it. Bill McKibben wrote: "With the
climate talks in Paris now over, the world has set itself a serious goal." 3  I have doubts. Was the goal really set seriously? Friedman wrote: "But the fact that the lowest common denominator is now so high [he means the target 1.50 Celcius] – a willingness by 188 countries to offer plans to steadily and verifiably reduce their carbon emissions – means we still have a chance." 2 Again I have doubts. I would very much like to agree with Boeve, McKibben, and Friedman. But at present at least, I cannot, for reasons I shall present below.

Why Call it a Fraud?

I too think, like Hansen, the accord was a fraud, but for reasons very different from those of his. I think it was only because they were afraid of being branded as the guilty in case the COP21 failed to reach an agreement that the major CO2 emitter countries reluctantly decided to sign this very weak paper. But paper, as the Germans say, is patient. If you want evidence, then look at the position with which the government of India went to Paris. Only a few months before the COP21 began, the government of India had announced the policy decision to double India's coal production in the next 5 years. Just a few days before he left for Paris, Mr. Javadekar, India's environment minister, had said in an interview: "I'm asking the developed world to vacate the carbon space so that we can park our development."4
    Retorting to US Secretary of State John Kerry's criticism of India's decision to double its coal production, Javadekar had remarked it was "absolutely unfair and unacceptable," especially since the CO2 reduction targets announced by the developed countries would fail to arrest the climate change crisis, which they had a historical responsibility of fixing after a century of pumping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. He also warned the Americans against "bullying" India.4
    Or take the case of Norway, very rich in oil and gas. Just twelve days after they signed the Paris accord, the prime minister of the country said:"We believe that in a situation in which we shall have attained the goal of Paris, there will be demand for Norwegian oil and gas."5 So they are continuing with all the plans and projects for extracting oil and gas from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. While claiming that they want to protect the Arctic from the effects of global warming, they are speculating on the melting of the arctic ice that will make more access to oil and gas possible. It seems they are saying (in German): Wasch mir den Pelz aber mach mich nicht nass, or (in English): We want to eat the cake and have it too.
    These are actually irreconcilable positions. We can formulate them as two most fundamental controversial questions: (1) Should the underdeveloped countries be allowed to develop their economies to the level reached by the USA or Germany? (2) And must the economies of the developed countries be scaled down, in order to vacate the carbon space in favor of the former? In Paris, these questions were probably not put on the table in these stark terms. In the interview referred to above, Mr. Javedkar, while asserting India's right – implicitly the right of all underdeveloped countries – to development, did not raise the second question. The Paris accord too recognizes all underdeveloped countries' "right to development". It "
… aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, … " (Article 2). But it does not mention the second question.
    It appears that all participants in COP21, the big and small environment NGOs, publicists, and activists take it as a matter of course that the answer to the first question is Yes, and that to the second is No. The controversy was just papered over. It is simply taken for granted that a deus ex machina, namely technological development, would enable humankind to solve the problem of global warming without causing any pain to anybody, and that it only needs some more time and large investments in renewable energies and efficiency-raising technologies. In the rich, developed countries, a large part of the hope of technology optimists is placed on the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, although not even its feasibility has yet been established. Bill Mckibben, founder and leader of, charts the strategy for the coming years.6 The state(s) must do the following:

"You’ve got to stop fracking right away … . You have to start installing solar panels and windmills at a breakneck pace – and all over the world. The huge subsidies doled out to fossil fuel have to end yesterday, and the huge subsidies to renewable energy had better begin tomorrow. You have to raise the price of carbon steeply and quickly, so everyone gets a clear signal to get off of it."
And he lays down the task of the movement as follows:

"There can be no complacency after the Paris talks. Hitting even the 1.5C target will need drastic, rapid action. Think of the climate movement as personal trainers – for the next few years our job is to yell and scream at governments everywhere to get up off the couch."
The most popular article of faith of environmental NGOs and activists (not of governments) is that – given the right policy decisions such as those laid down by McKibben in the above quote, and correspondingly large amounts of state subsidies – it would be possible in two to three decades to meet 100 percent of humanity's energy needs by means of renewable energy technologies, so that burning fossil fuels would not be necessary at all; there would also be no need for the CCS technology.
    Hansen calls the accord a fraud, mainly because he sees no concrete action plan in it, only promises that, moreover, the signatory states are required to implement gradually, beginning only in 2020. His idea was a tax or price or fee of $15 a tonne of CO2 to be paid by major emitters. He argued that only this measure could force down CO2 emissions quickly enough. But he found no support, not even among big environment groups, because, as he said, nobody wants to scare people off by talking off new taxes.1
    I could have supported the tax proposal of Hansen if he had stopped there. But, like the others mentioned above, he too believes that ultimately it is only by replacing fossil fuel energies with clean energies that we can avert climate catastrophes. For he says in the same interview: "We need to have a rising fee on carbon in order to move to clean energy."1
    Unlike Hansen, I see the fraud taking place since long, and it is contained in the very conceptions of the proposed solutions – in all parts thereof and both in their short as well as long-term versions. Firstly, the whole COP process from the very beginning, i.e. since 1992 onwards, is swearing to promote sustainable development and eradicate poverty while at the same time protecting the environment and averting global warming. The COP21 did the same. Otherwise the developing countries would not have taken part in the process. But how do you, in the short term, eradicate poverty in developing countries, e.g. in India, South Africa or Colombia, if you make power much dearer by (a) imposing a tax of $15 a tonne of CO2 payable by major emitters (that includes India), (b) by ending all subsidies to fossil fuels, and (c) paying huge subsidies to renewable energies (where will the huge sums come from)?
    Most persons, groups, parties etc. mentioned above simply assume that economic growth i.e. growth in prosperity can and will continue without any problem when the fossil fuel energies have been replaced with "clean" energies. As against that, I (and my political friends, e.g. Ted Trainer) believe since long that it is absolutely necessary that the major industrial countries, including China, India, Brazil etc. purposely bring about a contraction of their economies – in order not only to stop burning more and more fossil fuels but also to reduce the general level of environmental pollution. We do not think that economic growth would be possible if we really want to save the biosphere. I can also cite evidence supporting this belief: In recent history, the only time CO2 emission and general environmental pollution went down in a large region were the 1990s, i.e. after the Eastern European economies, especially the then second biggest economy of the world, that of the Soviet Union, collapsed. But in the Paris accord there is no mention of this necessity. The whole de-growth movement has been totally ignored, also by the big environmental NGOs. They simply believe in miracles.
    One may ask why I doubt that it would be possible, if not soon, then at least in the near future or in the long term to fully or at least largely replace fossil fuel energies (and other nonrenewable resources) with renewable ones. After all, technological progress is taking place all the time! Basing myself on Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's differentiation between feasible and viable,7 I have been expressing this doubt for the last 25 years. It is not possible to repeat all my arguments here; interested people may read some of my writings recommended below.8 Here I only want to refer to two sets of facts that serve as indications that my doubt may be justified. (1) Already in 1994, Eurosolar and its friends and associate organizations claimed in a full-page advertisement in the German print media that solar energy based on the technology developed till then could compete with fossil fuel energies. But today, after twenty more years of research and development, we see that solar energy is still neither competitive nor viable without large subsidies. That is why even today new coal-fired power plants are being built? (2) India is very rich in sunshine and wind. Still its government wants to double coal production in order to supply energy to the masses. Why? And why do its politicians say, it is only coal that India has for energy? Are the Indian engineers stupid or ignorant? Or have they all sold away their conscience to the coal lobby?
    Protagonists of green growth, i.e. growth based on 100% transition to renewables are all very intelligent people. Yet they are ignoring these facts and questions. If they are not intentionally bluffing, then they are, I believe, suffering from an illusion.
There are some more reasons why I criticize the big environmental NGOs. (1) They – unlike Hansen, who has called the whole agreement a fraud – have exonerated the political class (the authors of the Paris Deal) from all guilt, as if they are not always ready to fulfill the wishes of big corporations, as if they are actually good people who, like the NGOs, care for the interests of the masses, the only "villains" being the fossil fuel industries. Opposing these villains are, in their view, the good "ordinary people", the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, as if they do not want to consume more and more energy and other products of fossil fuels. This is too naïve, if it is not a fraud too. (2) They have isolated the climate crisis from all other crises involved in mankind's present predicament, as if they are not interconnected. They simply ignore the totality of the crisis. (3) They do not seem to know that the $100 billion that the politicians of the rich countries have promised to pay to the victims of global warming will first have to be generated by producing more green house gases. (4) It appears, moreover, that they have not noticed that these are all only promises. Don't they know that governments, especially in times of economic crisis, never deliver what they promise? The UNHCR, for example, recently reduced the food ration to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan etc. because they haven't received all the money that was promised to them.
    But the more basic problem I have with those who are euphoric about the Paris accord is that the signatory governments as well as the NGOs, green and left parties etc. do not even mention the real and deeper causes of the ecological, economic, political and social miseries of humankind, of which climate change and large-scale migration are just currently the most glaring manifestations. These real and deeper causes are the
continuously growing demands, aspirations and ambitions of a continuously growing world population, while our resource base is continuously dwindling and the ability of nature to absorb man-made pollution is continuously diminishing – in short, the lunatic idea that in a finite world infinite growth is possible.

Is the System Question Irrelevant?

What I, moreover, found very strange is that, all along, all people involved in the COP process assumed that the envisioned drastic changes in such a vital factor as the energy supply base of the modern industrial economies could be undertaken without requiring any changes in the current political-economic system.
    Of course, one could not expect from the politicians who signed the deal that they would include in it a clause stating that the system they have built up and which has made them rich and powerful also needs to be changed. But how come also the rest of the involved people did not have the slightest doubt that the huge problem can be solved within the framework of capitalism and free market economy? Outside this circle, however, in the context of the problems at hand, the system question had already been posed several hundred times, in speeches and writings, before the COP21 began. In TV news broadcasts, I have even a few times seen pictures of radical leftist protesters carrying banners and placards with the slogan "System change, not climate change".
    Can't one expect of honest and thinking NGO and media people that they also at least consider the possibility that the technological breakthroughs – 100% renewable energy, CCS etc., on which they are placing all their hopes – do not occur or do not occur in time? If they do not occur, shouldn't one have a plan B for averting the catastrophes? In plain English, if humanity can no longer indulge in the growth compulsions inherent in capitalism with its principle of competition in a free market economy, shouldn't the state(s) step in and order a stop in further economic growth? Shouldn't the state(s) then tell the people that they have to accept a contracting economy and all the consequences thereof? Shouldn't the state(s), from then on, plan an orderly withdrawal from the present mad economic system?9
    Unfortunately, many people who do raise the system question – there are even some prominent people among them – often do that half-heartedly. They often question "capitalism as we know it or as it is today" or "globalized neo-liberal capitalism", as if a better form of capitalism is conceivable, as if it could be made ecological, social or humane, and compatible with economic contraction. I do not think such half-hearted critiques are of any use. Such people do not realize that as long as the motive of profit maximization and the principles of private ownership of means of production, selfishness, and competition remain – and these are the most essential elements of capitalism –, there would always be a compulsion to grow, whatever that may cost human society and nature. That will bring to nought all efforts to overcome the climate crisis and many other crises.

Conclusion. Can Anything be Done Before an Eco-Socialist Revolution?

A friend said to me: look, Saral, I am convinced what you are saying is correct. But your eco-socialist revolution may never happen or it may come too late. Can't the powers that be do something short of your revolution, and soon? And can't ordinary people, who are afraid of too radical a change, urge them to do something in this emergency situation.
    I think that is possible. But a fraud on the people is not what I can advocate. A fraud cannot help even if we, as Mckibben urges us to do, "yell and scream at governments everywhere to get up off the couch."
    I can today imagine that an honest, well-meaning (think of PODEMOS and SYRIZA), and eco-sensitive social democratic party in near future comes to power through an election and gives itself, against the background of humanity's serious multifaceted crisis, an immediate program that could be implemented within the framework of current kinds of democracy and capitalism.
    The top priority of such a program should be to tell the voters the truth about limits to growth (and prosperity) and the necessity of respecting them, and then to take all feasible measures to gradually curtail economic growth, if not immediately and totally stop it. That should not be impossible. In fact, in Japan and the EU (with the exception of Germany), the economies are already stagnating – in Japan for the last 15 or 25 years and in the EU since 2008. Already now, people in the rich countries are getting used to stagnating economies or (as in China) falling growth rates. In Greece, Portugal and Spain people have experienced falling wages and cuts in salaries, pensions, and social benefits. We only have to make a virtue of this unwelcome development by openly and courageously saying that a recession is good for the environment including the climate. The government must only equitably distribute the burdens of protecting the environment in this way, and the burdens of the resulting unemployment by reducing by law the average weekly working hours.
    In the broad environmental movements in the Western capitalist countries, we can find many concrete proposals and concrete examples for this policy: Governments can promote public transportation and discourage private motorization. Activists can start a system of borrowable cars and two-wheelers owned by groups. Governments can pass orders to the effect that individual private cars can be used only on alternate days etc. etc. Above all, governments must stop all previous policies of promoting growth. All such things work against the capitalist ideal of growth and lead us toward collectivism. In the past, capitalists have had to swallow them.
    As far as I can observe, in the developed countries, among the masses, understanding for such policies is growing, although it is still far from becoming the majority view. Particularly political parties that want to get elected to parliaments are still not ready to adopt such a program. The Green Party of Germany has of course, long ago, betrayed its original program. But the latter was really an ecological social-democratic one.10 Here lies the great task of extra-parliamentary environmentalists and eco-socialist groups and individuals: to mobilize mass support for such a program. Today, the chances that they would succeed are much greater than in the early 1980s.
    In the underdeveloped countries, the two most important parts of such an immediate program should be to stop population growth and build up a modest social security and job guarantee system.11 Fortunately, both ideas are well accepted among the elites of many of such countries, although implementation is weak. To drive the illusions of catching-up economic development and growing prosperity out of their heads would become much easier once the elites of the developed countries have done their part of the work.

1. The first was communicated to me by my friend Kamran Nayeri. For the second see
Hansen, James (2015):

2. Friedman, Thomas L. (2015):

5. Bigalke, Silke (2015) "An der Eiskante" . In Süddeutache Zeitung, 28.12. 2015

7. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas (1978) "Technology Assessment: The Case of the Direct Use of Solar Energy", in Atlantic Economic Journal, December.

8. My detailed arguments on this issue are contained in
chapter 4 of my book Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? (see 9),
and in

9. I have thoroughly discussed these questions in my book Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? A Critical Analysis of Humanity's fundamental Choices. (1999. Zed Books, London).
In German translation: Die Nachhaltige Gesellschaft – Eine kritische Analyse der Systemalternativen.
(2001. Rotpunkt Verlag, Zürich)

10. See: Saral Sarkar (1994) Green-Alternative Politics in West Germany – Vol.II: The Greens. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.


Sunday, 27 December 2015

What it Means to be Leftist

A few days ago, I read an article entitled

What it Means to be Leftist,

which appeared in India as an editorial in the political magazine Frontier. I read it because the question is very important. Here is the link

I was very dissatisfied with the text, which is the response of the editor to the question she herself had put. So I wrote the following letter to the editor. I do not know whether the magazine will publish it. So I post it on this blog.
    I hope my readers would be interested.

Letter to the editor

the editor
Reg. The editorial What it Means to be Leftist
         In Frontier, December 20 – 26, 2015

Dear Sir,
the title attracted me very much, but the text disappointed me at least as much. You put a fundamental question, but what you serve us in response is only a critique of the current political maneuvers of only two Indian parties that are traditionally considered to be left parties. It is far from adequate to the title-question. I know this question is being put in many parts of the world.
    In the last paragraph you write: "The communist left needs theory …". I agree very much. I suppose you mean a new theory. Otherwise you would have written that the communist left should follow their traditional theory, namely Marxism or Marxism-Leninsm or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, in order to define their task at the present time. But then you yourself arbitrarily lay down very narrow parameters within which this new theory should be produced: "… a theory which can generate momentum in people's struggles within Indian borders, … ." Why within Indian borders? A new theory, especially one that should be produced by the communist left, should be meant to have validity for the whole world. Communists are not supposed to be provincial. Such a new theory building process must begin with an objective analysis of the present world situation. Only then should one define the task at the present juncture.
    Why don't you tell the author of the editorial that she herself should suggest the outlines of this new theory? I am feeling tempted to suggest a beginning of this new theory building process: Walter Benjamin wrote:

"Marx says revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps it is entirely different. Revolutions are perhaps the attempt of humanity travelling in a train to pull the emergency brake."

With best wishes

Saral Sarkar

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Refugee-Migrant Crisis of the EU -- Its Deeper Causes and Messages

The media are bubbling with the refugee-migrant crisis, the new great crisis of the EU, the significance of which dwarfs that of the Greek economic crisis. It may appear that everything that can be said on this subject has already been said and written. But it is not so. What is missing in the discussions till now is an in-depth understanding of the crisis, without which even highly competent and experienced politicians and administrators would not find a lasting solution to it. I am not going to tell them what they should immediately do in order to gain control of the crisis. But allow me to try to fill up the big gap between describing and really understanding the problem.

Some Facts and clarifications:

Let us begin by taking cognizance of some facts that usually remain unmentioned in the discussions. I do not however intend to repeat those that my readers can be expected to regularly get through TV and newspapers.

Three categories of "Refugees"

Let us first differentiate between three categories of "refugees". (1) Let us call those who were suffering political persecution in their native country and are therefore seeking asylum political refugees. (2) Those fleeing because of some kind of war or violent conflict should better be called war refugees. (3) Those who are leaving their native country in search of a better life or a better job in another country should be called (economic) migrants. They may be just poor people from un(der)developed countries or people who are unemployed for a long time. This categorization cannot be a clear-cut one, for people may have two or all of the above reasons to flee their native country. For the sake of convenience, let us use the term refugee-migrants.

It is a global Problem

Let us leave aside the legal migrants, who are more or less welcome or at least tolerated in the host countries.
    The refugee-migrant problem is a global one and exists since long. There are today worldwide 60 Million such people. Some 11 million Latino migrants are illegally living in the USA. It is not as if only rich countries like the USA and EU attract refugee-migrants. Even countries that are not really rich but are only perceived to be a little better off and having relatively better job opportunities (actually, only a little less unemployment) than the neighboring countries attract migrants from the latter. Thus India has an unknown number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, Malaysia has a large number of legal and illegal migrants from Indonesia, the Republic of South Africa from the neighboring African countries. In Kenia, the largest refugee camp of the world (in Dadaab ) is the temporary home of half a million Somali war refugees. In the Sahel Zone too there is a regular – legal and just tolerated – intra-regional flow and outflow of migrant workers. Some years ago, I also read of illegal Chinese migrant workers in the UK. Russia has its legal and illegal migrants from central Asia – most of them Muslims.
    At several international borders, walls and fences have been built to keep unwelcome refugee-migrants away, e.g. between the USA and Mexico, between India and Bangladesh, and most recently between Hungary and its neighboring countries. The EU created the Frontex, a high-tech border police organization, to prevent illegal entry. Australia uses force to prevent all ships carrying illegal migrants from touching its shores. Those who succeed in illegally landing in Australia are immediately deported to the neighboring pacific island of Nauru. Malaysia expels illegal Indonesian workers and even legal ones who have lost their job. Sometimes, the poor ones among them, who generally take cheap and unsafe boats for returning home, die of drowning in the sea. So we can say that the present acute refugee-migrant crisis of the EU is only the latest manifestation of a long-standing global problem.

The Economic Pull Factor

The global refugee-migrant problem therefore forms the general background against which we should discuss about any particular refugee-migrant problem. That of the EU, particularly of Germany, is, at present, only the most conspicuous sign of the very bad general state of the world and of the current system of global governance. For many European officials it is outrageous that hundreds of thousands of foreigners are gate-crashing one European country after the other – openly, illegally and without being registered by any authority. As a Bavarian politician recently said, it is tantamount to capitulation of the state if it cannot protect its borders.
    They are mostly young men and women. There are hardly any purely political refugees among them. And not all are fleeing only because of some war or violent conflict in their native country. It is clear that most of them are, at least partly, migrants. They are in search of a better life in one of the rich countries of the world. They are simply trying their luck. Proportionately perhaps not many, but in absolute terms significant numbers of them are going to the emerging industrial countries, such as India, Brazil and South Africa. Those who are migrating from North Africa, the Sahel region, and central Africa are mostly poor and unemployed. Their hope is to get work, some work and income. In TV interviews they even say that openly, do not pretend to be a refugee. A young Ghanaian said: "I have no problem with my state, politics here is all right. But here there is no job for me." An elderly poor peasant couple in a Senegal village told the TV journalist in the presence of their twelve year old son: "We told him, son, there is no future for you in this country. Go to Europe, somehow, we shall give you the money." Even the refugees from Syria, where the strong push factor of war is operating, are not at all thinking of leaving Europe and going back home once peace has returned there. They too want to build up a better future for themselves and their children. One Syrian man with a child on his shoulders said after arriving in Lesbos: "Thank God, I have now arrived in Europe. Here I can live in safety. Here I can fulfill my ambition." Another man from Syria said he has studied economics in Aleppo. His wife and children would come later, after he has settled down here. His ambition is to do a doctorate in Germany. A young man from Lahore was asked why he left Pakistan; after all, no war is raging there. He answered, it is because of the Taliban, they are making living there very difficult. Contrast this with the Somali refugees in Kenia's Dadaab camp, who are very happy to be able to return home.
    Except for the huge numbers this time, there is nothing new in this. I remember having seen in the 1990s a fictional film – entitled "The March"1 – on the same phenomenon. In 1991, we have seen photos of several thousand Albanian would-be migrants in a few chartered ocean-going ships arriving in Bari (Italy).2 Even barbed wire fences we have seen before. In 2005, we have seen TV-pictures of hundreds of young Africans trying to scale those of Ceuta and Melilla3 , and in this way enter EU territory. We have seen TV-pictures of young Africans trying to reach the Canary Islands on flimsy fishing boats.

The real and Deeper Causes

Ecology, Economy and the Prosperity Gap

We should differentiate the immediate, i.e. the superficial, causes from the root causes. Most European politicians are saying the really effective solution of their current refugee-migrant crisis would require removing its root causes, which they identify as the civil wars in Syria and Iraq and poverty in Africa.
    But political persecution and civil wars, even poverty, are, generally speaking, the superficial causes of migration, only the symptoms or effects of a disease, not the disease itself. More often than not, particularly in such crisis conditions as are prevailing today in the EU, politicians cannot and do not take cognizance of the disease behind the symptoms, i.e. of that which makes political persecution necessary, of the root causes that give rise to conflicts and wars. Much less can they do something about them. They must first, so to speak, quickly suppress the fever. The root causes mostly lie at much deeper levels of reality, and they build up slowly over a long period. They are therefore imperceptible to ordinary people like politicians before they explode onto the surface creating the clearly visible crisis at any particular time.
    To my mind, the root causes of the refugee-migrant crisis can be summed up in the following words:
the continuously growing demands, aspirations and ambitions (for short, DAAs) of a continuously growing population, while our resource base is continuously diminishing and the environment continuously degrading. Let me give an extreme example: Asked what he wants to become in future, a boy from a poor family going to an Indian slum school replied he wants to become like Bill Gates. None of his class mates said he wants to become a craftsman; even engine driver was nothing for them. These DAAs go so much beyond the really basic needs of any human being, namely satisfying hunger, quenching thirst, protection from adverse weather, sexual satisfaction, and belonging to a group in society. The continuous growth of DAAs are being propelled by, as it were, autonomously proceeding technological developments, which have their roots in human intelligence and greed, i.e. wanting to have more than one really needs. The catalogue of things the UN declared in 1948 to be universal human rights include "a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing … including food, clothing, housing and medical care, … necessary social services, … the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, … education, … full development of the human personality " etc. (articles 25 and 26). In 1948, even these simple things were totally unrealistic for the greater part of humanity. Moreover, many expressions in this formulation are vague. How much is "adequate"? And what is "wellbeing"? And what is "full development of the human personality"? But this "holy" declaration and pictures and narratives transported by TV etc. from the rich countries of the West to the remotest corners of the undeveloped countries fired the aspirations and ambitions of all poor people of the world.
    Today, 67 years later, in the greater part of the world, they still remain largely unrealized. What is more, the hope that they would be realized in the near future has evaporated. Many scientists and general observers believe that things would become worse – for objective reasons, namely continuous population growth, deepening global ecological crisis, extreme weather events due to global warming, rapid resource depletion, spreading desertification etc. Even in Germany, one of the richest countries of the world, there are many citizens who are homeless; the number of the "working poor" is growing, i.e. they cannot make their living although they work fulltime, which is why they have to apply for social welfare doles.
    In the past, we leftists used to say this kind of poverty exists due to inequitable distribution of the global and/or national income in capitalism, imperialism etc. We also proffered lack of sufficient development or wrong kinds of development as explanation of the misery in the underdeveloped countries. That was and still is largely true. But today we must say that is not the whole story. As Otto Ullrich wrote:

 "... in a system that tries to satisfy needs through material products there will always be, for every attained level of material prosperity, new unsatisfied material basic needs, above all because this system is necessarily very ingenious in the production of new luxury goods, which then become models for new material 'basic needs'. This system will always be too poor … . What was day before yesterday the radio, was yesterday the black-and-white TV, is today the color TV and will tomorrow be the three-dimensional picture projector." (Ullrich 1979: 108).4

I agree. As we know, even the socialist system could not satisfy all the "basic needs" of all its citizens in countries where it held sway till 1989.
    Also managers, share holders, and ordinary employees of companies and corporations, even small shop owners, refuse to accept any upper limit to profit/income. Therefore, in globalised capitalism there will always be a prosperity gap. As we know, this gap is continuously growing, not only between the countries, but also within each country, even within the richest ones. We are also seeing a growing discrepancy between the great development promises made in the past by ideologues of both capitalism and cornucopian socialism on the one hand and the gloomy reality of the present and prospects of future catastrophes on the other.
    In middle school I learnt in physics lessons that if two containers standing on the same level contain water under different degrees of pressure, then, if they somehow get connected, water under higher pressure will automatically flow to the container having water under lower pressure. This law of physics can be metaphorically applied to migration of humans (and animals) from densely populated and/or poor countries, where the pressure of poverty is high, to sparsely populated and/or rich countries where poverty is not so acute. Now, we know that the various countries of the world are since long getting ever more connected. After all, we nowadays talk of the world having become a global village.
    If we now multiply the continuously growing DAAs by the continuously growing population in the poorer countries, then we will understand why the universal human rights were, already in 1948, doomed to remain unrealized. They were unrealizable, because also the carrying capacity of this planet has simultaneously and continuously been diminishing – in truth, since human civilization began, albeit very slowly at first. We shall then also understand why migration has been a more or less permanent feature of human history. Capitalism, feudalism, imperialism, inequitable distribution, particular famines, dictatorship, oppression, wars, civil wars, violent conflicts etc. are only superficial or secondary explanations of the phenomenon, sometimes only the immediate causes of particular waves of migration. The real and deeper causes of the permanent phenomenon of migration are what I have stated above. For some individuals, however, who are not really unbearably poor,
the lure of greener foreign pastures in the relatively prosperous countries of the West is too great to resist.

Violent Conflicts and Civil Wars

To say that the civil wars in Syria and Iraq have caused the current refugee-migrant crisis is not very original. We also have to know what caused these wars.
    The state of affairs mentioned in the above section toward explaining poverty-related migration has also led, directly or indirectly, to many kinds of violent conflict over distribution of resources – both between nations and within nations. As we know, they too cause people to flee their native country. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait for oil (1991), Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara for phosphate, and the Jewish people's occupation of Palestinian land for founding their state Israel and subsequently for settlements building are some examples from our days.
    Within nations, in most countries, the ruling and dominant class(es), race(s), ethnie(s), regional population(s), religious and language group(s), that presently own (s), rake(s) in or claim(s) the lion's share of the nations resources and national income, must oppress, in one way or another, those below them who feel deprived and demand their fare share: ordinary workers, poor or landless peasants, the unemployed, and the underclass. But why must the former group(s) oppress the latter, who may (or may not) constitute the majority of the population? It is because in the greater part of the world there simply is not enough to satisfy all the demands and wishes of all groups of the nation. In the past we have seen and we are still seeing plenty of conflicts, more or less violent, arising from this state of affairs. So we can say that when some violent conflict appears to be the cause of a particular flow of refugees from a country, it is, in the final analysis, mainly, though not exclusively, the prosperity gap prevailing in that country that is the real and the deeper cause. Of course, cause-and-effect models of explanation are never that simple. Remember Tunisia in 2011? There, after 4 weeks of popular demonstrations the despotic ruler left the country and the matter took a good turn. But not so in Syria.
    It is logical to fear that in future there would be many more such conflicts and they would generate many more streams of refugees – especially if one considers that in the immediate future the on-going ecological and climate crises will further worsen.
    A special phenomenon in this category has been the renaissance of piracy on the high seas. At least Somali pirates said that they were originally fishermen by trade, and that they had no other alternative but to take to piracy when trawlers from distant rich countries began to empty their fishing grounds. At the same time the country's population has been growing at the rate of 3.48% (2002) to 2.81% (2011) per annum. More recent figures are not available or unreliable because of civil war and-large scale emigration. We read in the internet however that in
"… 2014 population was estimated at 10.8 million, up from the 2013 estimate of 10 million. The country is rapidly expanding with almost 3% annual population growth and a high fertility rate of 6.26 children per woman, which is the 4th highest in the world." As for the size, Somalia is a very large country. Its population density is just 17.1 per km2. But it is also a very arid country; arable land is just 1.64% of the whole. We can then imagine how the environmental situation might be. A Somali NGO activist writes: "I was born in 1947 and until I was seven years old I lived in an area that was savannah-like, … I first visited Somalia again about thirty years ago – the land that I had remembered as lush green savannah was total desert, with only huge sandstorms blowing." 5 In this and other texts there is also mention of overgrazing, deforestation, and production, even export, of charcoal, which surely contributed to desertification. Another Somali activist writes:

"Environmental issues play a key role in conflicts in Somaliland [the northern province of Somalia]. I would go as far as to say such issues play a daily role in conflict situations across Somaliland. Confrontations frequently occur over disputes over grazing lands, watering holes and land that has been sealed off by individuals for private use."5

It is therefore not very meaningful to point only at the foreign trawlers to explain the phenomenon of piracy on Somalia's coast.
    I have shown elsewhere5a how ecological degradation combined with population growth caused economic troubles, which in turn lent force to the popular revolts against oppressive and exploitative regimes (Egypt, Syria), and which, in Syria, ultimately led to the now over four years old civil war. In the meantime, some more information of this category has been made available by Agnès Sinai.6 Sinai, to quote just one example, writes about the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria:

"In northern Nigeria soil degradation has destroyed the traditional way of life of peasants and cowherds, and impaired the paths of nomads. Several hundred villages have been given up. It resulted in migratory movements that have destabilized the region. In this way the ground was prepared for the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram."

Unfortunately, Sinai failed to point out that, in the meantime, the population of Nigeria has been growing at the annual rate of 2.67% (2000) to 2.47% (2014), a typical omission of most publicists on the subject. Sinai concludes:

"The great crush of refugees at the borders of the prosperity-island of Europe will become stronger in the 21st century. For, at the time, at least as many people are fleeing the consequences of environmental destruction as from violence and wars."6

    In some cases, because in the popular media we hardly get any report on the state of the environment and resource base of the concerned country, it appears that the conflict there is only a power struggle between different religious and/or ethnic groups. Thus, to take another example, the current civil war in Yemen is often being depicted as a war between the Shia Huthis, the minority supported by Iran, and the Sunni majority supported by Saudi Arabia. In reality, however, the Huthis are fighting against the Sunni majority because they are not getting their fair share of power and resources. One also finds in the internet the following information: Between 2000 and 2008, Yemen's population grew at an annual rate of 3.36% to 3.46%. Then the rate started slightly falling. In 2014 the population was still growing at the rate of 2.72%. On the state of the environment we read: "Yemen's main environmental problems have long been scarcity of water, soil erosion, and desertification. Water pollution is a problem due to contaminates from the oil industry, untreated sewage, and salinization. Natural forests in mountainous areas have been destroyed by agricultural clearing and livestock overgrazing."
    This is, however, not to deny that the Shia-Sunni schism that took place in the 7th century A.D. plays a big role in the current conflicts in the Middle East. But it would probably not cause such severe conflicts if the material conditions of life had not been deteriorating. That may be the reason why in the oil-rich Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia – despite the existence of the Shia-Sunni divide – no violent conflict between the two sects has come up. Bahrain is the only exception.
    I do not want to end this section without mentioning the case of Rwanda, where an ethnic conflict led to a genocidal massacre (1994) and ended in a large refugee outflow. Asked why they are killing the others, although both ethnies worship the same Christian God and whose holy scripture demands of them: "… thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself", one participant replied: "In Africa, blood (ethnic loyalty) is thicker (more important) than faith". But that was certainly only the superficial cause. The real and deeper cause was ecological degradation and dwindling resource availability. On Rwanda's environmental situation we read:

“...Rwanda’s mountainous topography and growing human population have resulted in increasingly severe environmental degradation: soil erosion from cultivation of steep slopes; pollution and sedimentation of water sources; and loss of forests, protected areas, and biodiversity to new human settlements.”7

On population growth in Rwanda we read: "…the population had increased from 1.5 million in 1930 to 2.1 million in 1952, 3.6 million in 1970, 4.8 million in 1978 and 7.5 million in 1993. Another doubling to 15 million is expected to take place in the next 21 years." 8That means, in 1993, the population was growing at the rate of 3.1% per annum. And the population density of Rwanda amounted to 271 inhabitants per square Kilometer.8  After the civil war ended, a huge number of Hutus fled to the DR Congo when their ethnic enemies, the Tutsis, conquered power. The greater part of them has still not returned to Rwanda.

The Strength of Identity Feelings

Although defending existing prosperity gaps and/or striving for (more) prosperity are the main reasons why individuals and ruling and dominant groups exploit and oppress the others and the others revolt, there is no denying that on both sides there are people who also enjoy having power itself. So they may also fight for power for the sake of power, i.e. without thereby intending to increase or defend their prosperity. Then also groups not defined purely by economic interests but, e.g., by race, ethnicity, nation, language, religion, sect etc. may do that. All kinds of liberation struggles fall under this category. In reality, however, what one finds in most cases is a contingent mixture of several motivations.
    In the process, a strong group identity, a we-feeling, comes into play. Then the fighters may not (only) be fighting for advancing or defending their economic interests or against usurpers, exploiters or oppressors; they may (also) be hating and/or fighting against the others because they are in some way different. In this way, the oppressed and the exploited of one group may be fighting against the oppressed and the exploited of the others. Thus white racists in the USA and their militant groups (e.g. the Ku Klux Klan) hate, oppress and persecute the blacks not because the latter somehow threaten their economic interests, but because they are different, black. In India, Hindus and Muslims may fight against each other because they worship different gods in different kinds of temples. Similar is the case in Myanmar, where the Rohingyas – who are dark-skinned and are, moreover, Muslims – are hated and persecuted by the fair-skinned and Buddhist Burmese majority. The fight of Al Qaida, IS and Al-Nusra against the West can be understood as the fight of the "faithful" against the "infidels". In this sense, the civil wars in Syria and Iraq can also be declared as a Shia-versus-Sunni conflict. We can then say that many violent conflicts – on-going and of the past – at least partly owe(d) their origin or intensification to non-economic identity conflicts
Such conflicts often get fed by historical memories. The Shias cannot forget nor forgive the murder of their religious leader and his followers by the Sunnis in Kerbela in the 7th century AD. The Hindu-nationalists cannot forget that Hindu kings were defeated by and lost power to Muslim conquerors about one thousand years ago. The struggle of the Islamist Jihadists can also be seen as a process of taking revenge on the imperial West for the humiliations it inflicted upon the Muslims in the past. The Crusades have not been forgotten. That also may be one explanation for the persecution they are meting out to Christians, even Arab Christians. Such conflicts can be triggered off by the slightest provocation. The majority may then think of teaching the others a lesson, which then escalates into a big thing. Conflicts of this kind of origin too have often led to emigration of the underdogs or the defeated.
    Actually, this we versus the others feeling exists also among animals. Think of Chimpanzee groups. They do not allow any stranger from any other group to even approach the borders of their territory. Same is the case with street dog Groups in any Indian City. It belongs to our pristine biological inheritance. The gang wars in Los Angeles take place along borders of clearly divided territories. But in modern times, mostly, any identity group (we-group) is compelled to live in the same state with many other identity groups, thus together forming one mixed population without any group having an exclusive territory of its own. In such cases, identity groups are formed and conflicts break out on other lines, as enumerated above. 
    But in the process of our cultural evolution we humans have learnt to control this primitive feeling, though not fully. Success in controlling it and accepting the others in our community may have been aided by the fact that in advanced societies, human beings generally have more than one identity.9 A person can feel e.g. that she is a German and hence different from a Chinese. But she may also feel that she is a capitalist and hence make common cause with Chinese capitalists. So despite differences in nationality, there are international organizations of both capitalists and workers. Thus in the early 1990s, when xenophobic-racist attacks against Vietnamese immigrant workers were taking place in Eastern Germany, visitors from Japan, whom average Germans cannot distinguish from Vietnamese because of their similar looks, were advised to somehow mark themselves as Japanese. It was taken for granted that xenophobic-racist Germans would not attack Japanese visitors because they both belong to the First World.
    Such identity feelings become very strong, highly ingrained, almost indelible when they prove to be the only remaining means of mobilizing the masses against some perceived evil or injustice.10

Some Concluding Remarks
. What can be done?

Since even top politicians and thinkers of the EU and Germany are at their wits' end to solve the crisis, it may be tolerated that I make a few general remarks and suggest some policies.
    The Europeans, particularly Germans, are divided in their sentiments and feelings. The volunteers, the so-called"good people" ("Gutmenschen"), are doing their best to help people in dire need, practicing "a humanitarian culture", "a welcoming culture", and showing a "friendly face". These noble sentiments and practices are invaluable. They show that we can still hope for a future in which all humans will think they belong to one humanity. But there are still many hurdles to overcome and much work to be done to realize such a vision. In the meantime, we cannot ignore the fact that most humans cannot yet jettison their basic animal instincts. Every animal and every animal group tends to defend its territory and other "vital" interests. That is what the so-called "bad people" are doing. The truth is that more than a half of the Germans are afraid they are losing territory, some think, to a foreign "invading" army. But also the "good people" in Germany know, and they are increasingly saying so, that there is a limit to what they and their native country can do, that they cannot help all the poor people of the world.
    This limit is, firstly, a matter of material resources. Captains of the German economy and their representatives in politics and media, but also many standard economists, are saying that the German economy needs about half a million more workers, that the refugee-migrants constitute, so to speak, a demographic dividend, and that they can and should soon be integrated in this aging society. They are expecting a new economic boom as in the 1960s, because the new immigrant-workers would produce new wealth. They are asserting that the immediate costs of integrating them would be manageable, that, after all, Germany could bear the costs of integrating the whole population (17 million) of the former GDR etc.
    This is utter nonsense; nothing can be more misleading. They are talking as if they have never heard of the climate crisis, the general ecological crisis, and the contradiction between ecology and economy. Moreover, they are not mentioning that the East Germans did not come to join West Germany empty-handed like the refugee-migrants of today, that they brought along their fertile land, buildings, highly developed infrastructure and advanced knowledge and know-how of the people. Particularly Germans in the lower strata of society are fearing more intensive competition for low level jobs and affordable rented accommodation. Captains of industry are already demanding that exceptions to the minimum wage law be allowed.
    Secondly, even for modern humans living in an era of globalization there is a psychological limit to tolerance of foreigners in their forecourt. It is not for nothing that radical rightist parties are gaining ground in all EU countries. And thirdly, social scientists know that, in many areas of life, there is also a "social-critical limit", after crossing which a social organization begins malfunctioning. Today, the EU seems to have crossed several such limits.
    All these have led to tensions between the member nations of the EU as well as cracks within some of them, even within parties. Recently, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French radical rightist party Front National, characterized the liberal German policy on the current refugee-migrant crisis as a project to recruit cheap slave labor for the country's economy. Some time back, a Greek woman asked some young male Syrian refugee-migrants: "Why don't you go back and fight against the IS at home?" The foreign affairs minister of the newly elected Polish government recently asked a German TV reporter (in the general sense): Do you think we should send our soldiers to Syria while young men from there let themselves be housed and fed by Germans and drink coffee in a Berlin restaurant? The East-European member states of the EU have totally refused to accept any refugee in their country. The Hungarian Prime Minister said bluntly: "It is not our problem. It is the problem of the Germans."
    I leave it to the politicians and administrators of the EU and Germany to define their immediate tasks and perform them. It is they who have competence in that area. But I know what must and should be done in the middle and long term: (a) help stop population growth where it is still growing, (b) tell people, also in the rich countries, to curtail their material aspirations and consumption desires, (c) regulate capitalism, if you do not want to overthrow it, and control international trade and investment in order to force capitalists to act in socially and ecologically responsible manner, and (d) start, already now, a publicity campaign for these long-term goals and corresponding policies.
    Recently, the EU leaders have shown readiness to give African countries more financial aid in order to enable them to motivate their young citizens to stay in their native country. This is a commendable idea. But, firstly, the purpose of this aid should not be to bribe the leaders of the concerned countries and demand in exchange that they somehow hold back the would-be migrants. The aid should be used to reduce the prosperity gap, which can also be achieved by reducing the consumption level of e.g. the Germans. As long as the present huge gap remains, no amount of aid to poor African countries will help stop migration to Europe. The youth of Africa and other poor countries do not just want to have enough to eat. They also want to have the good things of life. Secondly, at least this new aid should be given with a condition attached, namely that it should be used for programs to stop further population growth. And finally, the people of the rich countries must give up their policy of extracting as much profit as possible from the poor countries. An African refugee-migrant told European journalists: "We are here because you are (were) in our countries"
     Let me stop here for today. Those who are more interested in this line of thinking may read my book Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? – A Critical Analysis of Humanity's Fundamental Choices11, in which I have thoroughly discussed many of these and other related issues. It also appeared in German translation.12


If not otherwise stated, statistical and other data are from the internet.

1. The March is a movie that was aired by BBC One for "One World Week" in 1990. The plot concerns a charismatic Muslim leader from the Sudan who leads 250,000 Africans on a 3,000 miles (4,800 km) march towards Europe
with the slogan, "We are poor because you are rich."

The story is about an indefinite future in which, due to climate change, large parts of Africa have become uninhabitable and in Europe racial tensions have increased. What was in those days thought to be the future scenario has today unexpectedly become reality (Source for both passages:Wikipedia)
2. Twenty years ago, on 8 August 1991, several ships carrying approximately 15,000 Albanian migrants succeeded in entering the port of Bari, Italy. The Italian government’s response was harsh.  Most of the Albanians were detained in a sports stadium without adequate food, water, or access to bathrooms.  Italian authorities dropped supplies to the detained migrants by helicopter.  Within several weeks most of the migrants were deported to Albania.  Their harsh treatment was criticised by human rights organisations and the Pope, but was justified by the Italian government as necessary to deter further irregular migration from Albania. (Source Wikipedia)

3.Ceuta und Melilla: Europas Hightech-Festung in Afrika
Von Katharina Graça Peters

"The distance between Poverty and a new start is only a few meters: The Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla are parts of Europe, but they are situated in Africa. Ever since, six years ago, refugees stormed the fences in large numbers, the two cities have shielded themselves off more strongly by means of high-tech equipment." (Source Wikipedia)
4. Ullrich, Otto (1979) Weltniveau – In der Sackgasse des Industriesystems. Berlin: Rotbuch.

5. Bandare, Shukhri Haji Ismail and Jibrell, Fatima (2015) "Women, Conflict and the Environment in Somali Society". In
Hawley, Jenny (ed.) (2015)Why Women Will Save the Planet. London: Zed Books. PP. 141, 144.

5a.Sarkar, Saral: The Tragedy of Lampedusa – What to Do?

6. Sinai, Agnès: "Verwüstung. – Wie der Klimawandel  Konflikte anheizt." In: Le Monde Diplomatiqe. September 2015. (This journal also has an English edition).

7. Thaxton, Melissa (february 2009) Integrating Population, Health, and Environment in Rwanda (Source Wikipedia) )

8. Diessenbacher, Hartmut (1998) Kriege der Zukunft – Die Bevölkerungsexplosion gefährdet den Frieden. Munich & Vienna: Carl Hanser. Pp 67-68.

9. See: Sen, Amartya (2006) Identity and Violence – The Illusion of Destiny. London: Penguin (Allen Lane)

10. See: Sarkar, Saral (2012)"The Power of the Religions and the Helplessness of the Leftists"

11.Sarkar, Saral (1999) Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? – A Critical Analysis of Humanity's Fundamental Choices. London: Zed Books.

12. Sarkar, Saral (2001) Die Nachhaltige Gesellschaft – Eine kritische Analyse der Systemalternativen. Zürich: Rotpunkt (vergriffen), and Saarbrücken: SVH (as book on demand).