• The Consequences of Climate Change for Left Strategy – A Roundtable

  • By Judith Dellheim , Sabine Leidig , Ulrich Brand , Christoph Görg , Andreas Novy , Melanie Pichler , Daniela Setton | 07 Mar 17 | Posted under: Ecology , Transformative Strategies
  • In periods of crisis socio-ecological questions are repeatedly pushed to the margins. Apart from the Greens, left parties have difficulty in creating systematic connections between economic, social, and ecological questions and in formulating political projects – reason enough for the editors of transform! yearbook to organise a discussion on the present crisis and the relative significance and perspectives of left socio-ecological politics.

    The dialogue partners from Germany and Austria are Judith Dellheim, consultant for Solidary Economy at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin and active for many years in the Social Forum movement; Christoph Görg, professor at the Institut für Soziale Ökologie of the University of Klagenfurt; Sabine Leidig, transportation policy spokesperson for Die LINKE’s Bundestag delegation and former executive secretary of Attac Deutschland; Andreas Novy, professor of economics at the Wirtschaftsuniversität of Vienna and chairman of the Grüne Bildungswerkstatt Austria (the education institute of Austria’s Green Party); Melanie Pichler, post-doc at the Institut für Soziale Ökologie of the University of Klagenfurt and editor of mosaic-blog.at; Daniela Setton, former staff member of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, then activist in the movement to end public financial support for coal-mining, and today at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam; Ulrich Brand, of the University of Vienna, member of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and of the scholarly advisory board of Attac Deutschland, moderated the discussion.

    Ulrich Brand: We are experiencing  and suffering from the apparent paradox that there is, on the one hand, sharp public debate around the ecological crisis, many statements by politicians, more or less binding, but often unbinding commitments and political proposals, while, at the same time, policies of ecological modernisation  are not up to the challenges and are counteracted by other, non-sustainable policies. How do you assess this?

    Andreas Novy: I would identify two problems here: On the one hand, the separation of ecological and social orientations, which is deeply rooted in our minds – climate change and organics on the one side, justice and affordable housing, on the other. This corresponds to specific policy sectors, ministries, and scholarly disciplines that foster the fragmentation. When the social question is generally seen as central then ecology falls by the wayside, ‘because there are more important things in the here and now’. Bicycle lanes and organic food then appear to be luxuries, while creating jobs at any cost is seen as realism. What is needed from a left perspective is to systematically harmonise the social and the ecological. It is not that there is social justice, on the one side, and, on the other, ecological justice; rather there is socio-ecological justice.

    On the other hand, there is the misunderstanding that global problems need global answers. To regain our capacity to act we would need to understand climate change as a multi-level phenomenon and to implement climate policy precisely on a local and regional level, in the sense of just and ecological mobility, local recreation, local supply, etc.

    Daniela Setton: At present, despite a broadly shared discourse on climate and sustainability, it is evidently not possible to implement more progressive policies because in many arenas ecological change needs to be accompanied by fundamental political, social, and economic change. This meets with fierce opposition on the part of corporations and parts of the economic and political elites. Massive political pressure is required, but this is often only possible under special conditions. And even when there is ‘success’ it often is only possible to advance at a snail’s pace, or the political initiatives for more environmental protection are massively influenced by the interests of the adversary, which considerably weakens their effect or even counteracts it – an example is the EU Emission Trading Scheme.

    Christoph Görg: I agree with you that there is a strong and socially deeply anchored coalition against fundamental changes, which also rests on the fatal opposition of fronts: ecological vs. social, realistic vs. radical/’Fundi’, global vs. local, technical vs. relevant to everyday life. The alleged realism of the ‘social question’ is especially difficult to break through because it is closely bound up with social power relations. But that is precisely what the task is – to address these false polarisations and discuss the ‘social’ as a socio-ecological problematic. There are concrete growth strategies which are responsible for the social problems and the related crises. And these growth strategies are also responsible for the ecological crises. It is a specific mode of production and life that is in crisis – and the question is on whom the burdens of these multi-faceted crises and the supposed ‘realistic’ strategies of reacting to them will be shifted. Unfortunately, all this points to complex problems that are not easy to analyse and still harder to politicise. This challenge has to be taken seriously. How the problems are taken up and thematised – whether as a pure discourse of experts or as a social debate (drawing on expert knowledge) – is in itself a political question.

    Brand: Does the population itself not want to know exactly what the level of ecological problems are? Wouldn’t there be resistance to a far-reaching socio-ecological project?

    Sabine Leidig: I think it is less the feared resistance amongst broad sectors of the population which determines present policy. Instead, it is, as Daniela and I pointed out, the interventions of big corporations or the safeguarding of capital’s interests in general. We can see this in the shifting of costs of the energy turn, as for example in the passing on of the costs for the energy- efficient modernisation of buildings from the real-estate owners to the renters and in the constantly increasing ticket prices of local public transport or the absurdly high CO2  thresholds for big cars. As long as capital accumulation and the logic or profit are not reined in or overcome it is almost impossible to combine the social with the ecological.

    Setton: Nevertheless, I would say that in the area of climate policy in Germany we do see notable changes even within the government apparatuses. Intensive confrontations are taking place around new long-term approaches to reducing CO2 in the context of the Climate Plan 2050. We see a coalition for transformation that is becoming stronger, even if there is still a lot of social resistance to it.

    Judith Dellheim: When ecology is subordinated to the goal of global competitiveness and ‘security’, then it is logical that we will have the problem we have been describing. We only have to look at Juncker’s speech ‘The State of the Union 2016’. Under ‘Preserving the European Way of Life’ ecology is not even mentioned. It is within the political confrontations around the old question of ‘how we want to live’ that the left must represent the idea of the self-determined, solidary, and therefore ecologically acting human being and make it politically effective. Concrete points of departure are the irrationalities in consumption, transportation, and the privatisation of public services, etc., which citizens have themselves articulated. In addition, mega- and free-trade projects, socially and ecologically destructive ‘development policy’, and the financialisation of nature has been perceived as madness that has to be ended.

    Brand: My assessment is that almost no connection to (socio-)ecological questions is coming out of the respective strategies. What does this mean for left forces?

    Melanie Pichler: The left today is concentrating on a defensive battle, in which it is trying to save, as far as possible, the achievements of Fordism/Keynesianism and the inclusive welfare state. However, in my view there is no coherent political project that points beyond the redistributive policy of the post-war years. In at least two ways this is a problem for integrating ecology with the social question: first, this model can only work through stimulating growth (no wonder then that proposals are limited to a green economy and green jobs) and, second, the model is limited to the nation-state.

    Leidig: I am not quite so sceptical in terms of the left. At any rate, the concrete demand for ‘absorption’ of a part of the enormous capital gains is not the same thing as participation in gains from growth. And at least in broad sectors of Die LINKE it has by now become understood that these gains have to be used to finance socio-ecological reconstruction – above all as an extension of ‘public essential services’: of care, education, school lunches, etc. Admittedly, this is still not an offensive position.

    Novy: I see a core of the right-wing discourse in the statement ‘we do not have to change ourselves’. This conveys the idea that the current unsustainable mode of life can be defended, which is a very attractive idea and so there is broad agreement around it. It denies climate change and conveys the illusion of national communities without migration. A left utopia has to show that there is crisis and that this demonstrates that ‘going along in the same way’ is impossible. Perhaps it is possible to maintain islands of prosperity, but the price for it is giving up the idea of universal human rights and peaceful coexistence. Accordingly, the left is facing the paradoxical situation that the civilisational achievements of modernity (human rights, democracy, social security) in our part of the world can only be secured if we change our mode of life. Therefore there is good reason to say that a left project – picking up on what Melanie said – is also a defence project.

    Brand: How can this paradox be overcome?

    Görg: Actually, we have to win back ‘the future’. Ecological discourse has for a long time now been conducted either as a catastrophe discourse or as a merely pragmatic question of modernisation strategy. However, there is a third approach, and this is articulated in concepts like buen vivir or ‘good life for all’ (GLFA). The question of how we want to live includes the question of how we think of nature in that ideal life. Nature that is increasingly exploited such that crises are generated in which the bases of life of a large part of humanity are becoming increasingly precarious? Or nature in which a good life is also possible because climate change will be limited and landscapes not completely desolated? Utopias must also be truly liveable as well as socially attractive; this is not a trivial point.

    Novy: That is right; certainly the force of a political movement first comes out of just such a utopia.

    Setton: But this discussion has so far stayed on quite an abstract level. And so I would like to give an example that shows that the real integration of questions of society or justice and ecology are not banal; but much more can be done – especially by the left. Especially with wind and solar companies we have the worst working conditions and the lowest paid jobs with the least right of co-determination. If energy corporations are now to be ‘shrunk’ in favour of climate protection then this will also cost many good and secure jobs, which cannot be so easily substituted. Therefore trade unions have been up in arms about attempts to limit coal-fired generation. So work conditions in the environmental branches have to be improved for the employees who up to now have hardly gotten any hearing in the debate. We would, for example, need to concretely define how concepts of life and work would look in an energy transition.

    Dellheim: The attribute ‘ecological’ is frequently seen, but – and here I largely agree with Christoph – the constraints and limits for self-determined, solidary, and therefore ecologically responsible action are not continually tested individually and politicised collectively. As a result, there is a lack of relevant practices and credibility. The motto ‘we must pick up people where they are’ can wind up excusing a certain amount of opportunism instead of leading us to work on projects like ‘free public local transportation’ and ‘cancel Greece’s debt and make ecological investments possible’. If there are signature-gathering campaigns against ecologically destructive projects in the countries of the global South but no consistent political confrontation with the causes of the problem – the transnational corporations, economic policy, the economic and social structures in Germany and the EU – then it will not be possible to effect changes.

    Brand: From an emancipatory perspective what is involved is not to reach a rather abstract 2-degree goal but to reconstruct the social basic services systems like mobility, food, housing, and clothing. The problem of non-sustainability is the capitalist growth imperative, the patriarchal domination of nature, and externalisation at the global level. This is concrete and takes conflicts and alternatives into account, but it runs the risk of carving itself up into different spheres. What are starting points for thematising and politicising the socio-ecological, that is, multiple, crisis in all its complexity?

    Leidig: In Die LINKE’s Bundestag group we have been concrete about our perspectives and concrete points of intervention in some arenas through what we call ‘Plan B for a Socio-Ecological Reconstruction’. But what has gained most popularity amongst the party’s rank and file is the ‘free local public transportation’ offensive. It is absolutely necessary to take the life-world issues we named here as a point of departure – and societal confrontations are indeed taking place over them. But the ‘socio-economic tendency’ in Die LINKE has so far not succeeded in anchoring the needed change of the mode of production and life as a point of departure for a concrete critique of capitalism and a redistribution offensive. For this, more ‘challenges’ from outside would be helpful.

    Novy: In Austria there is clearly a widespread notion that these times are far too serious for us to concern ourselves with the environment and climate. In an increasingly offensive way, the FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party) is becoming the party of climate denial. This is consistent with its attempt to safeguard a non-sustainable life style. The SPÖ (Social Democratic Party of Austria) and ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) largely de facto practice climate denial because ‘the issue does not get votes’. The Greens suffer from the fact that there is no public attention paid to the issue. And it is very hard to link the ecological to the social question although there are some initiatives for this, above all the marvellous 365-Euro Annual Ticket in Vienna, which lowers living costs and at the same time implements sustainability. A closer look at the famous Red Vienna of the inter-war years would show what local and regional government can really accomplish.

    Görg: Fundamental changes have never before been developed in the party system but only in social movements, after which they can be articulated in the party system when the latter permits it. In view of the present global crisis of political representation I do not have much hope of this. Emancipation means to not just let yourself be represented but to directly articulate your interest. Intellectuals or parties have no control over this – and it is good that they don’t. Therefore for me the connecting starting point is not a single issue but the possibilities of political articulation. And today these are being limited by authoritarian forms of politics and populism. The crisis of democracy is thus the actual connecting starting point, and the big challenge is a democratisation of social relations including those of nature. But in the present situation one can hardly say this publicly without being branded a utopian.

    Novy: Yes, politics cannot be reduced to parties and the state. But it is just as wrong to be fixed on civil-society actors because they all too often are also co-opted or withdraw to niches and become a club of losers. The art of politics would be to again bring movements and society and party and state apparatus into a constructive tension of supporting leg and free leg. So an important element of a socio-ecological transformation is the transformation of the political in the sense of an expansion of the more decentral, sometimes self-administered, and always more participatory shaping of public institutions and spaces, in short the democratisation of all spheres of life.

    Dellheim: After the Berlin State Parliament elections the question of pink-red- green is becoming exciting: After we, as the Berliner Energietisch (Berlin Energy Board), narrowly lost the 2013 referendum on democratic, social, and ecological re-municipalisation against the adverse wind of the SPD leadership, despite the supportive resolution passed at the SPD party congress and the not completely consistent but at least always verbal support of Die LINKE and the Greens, the electoral programmes of the three parties are pointing in our direction. In addition, Berlin has, on paper, an energy and climate-protection law that is not bad. The two long-time spokespeople of the Energy Board are now deputies to the Berlin State Parliament. What is especially interesting about the Berliner Energietisch is that it started as more of an ecology project but when it launched its campaign it became a socio-ecological one.

    At this moment we are organising a publicly visible and effective event on the theme ‘With Full Energy Against Energy Poverty’ (20 November 2016) and inviting someone from Graz’s environment office to report on that city’s successful initiative for energy efficiency against energy poverty. New activities should emerge from the event. Things are also getting exciting in public local transport. The Berlin LINKE and the Piraten, who have changed over to it, have a concept of free public local transport. The Greens sympathise.

    Brand: How can we think about the democratisation of relations of nature? What would be starting points at the European, nation-state, or local levels?

    Pichler: For me democratisation means both procedural and substantive aspects. The procedural is that diverse social actors again (or for the first time) take an active part in shaping our life and work worlds. This includes the integration of employees, for example through new forms of economic democracy: whether we are dealing with the reconstruction of energy systems – away from coal towards renewable energy, away from automobilism towards collective forms of mobility – at the regional or national levels, or with forms of participatory drawing up of budgets at the local level.

    The substantive aspect means for me that we not only have to listen to as many voices as possible but that we now for the first time have to come to an understanding amongst ourselves about which spheres we actually want to shape democratically together. How we eat, what technologies we develop further, what forms of mobility we promote, what branches of industry will be subsidised – none of this is in our direct sphere of influence but is mostly ceded to the market and therefore to consumer decisions. We have to politicise this. That sounds abstract but I think it is necessary so that we can at least contemplate concrete measures, decision-making instruments, or paths of development.

    Dellheim: Democratisation as collective self-determination should mean consistent and systematic political confrontation with the constraints and limits for ecologically responsible life. Energy, food, mobility, housing, and free time are the key words here.

    Brand: The energy transition in Germany is seen throughout the world as a model for entry into a socio-ecological reconstruction. How do you assess this?

    Setton: It is clear that in the energy transition there are many challenges and still unsolved problems. But sweeping criticism of it impedes us from seeing the opportunities that lie in this contested large-scale social project for an ecological and social transformation and therefore for left politics. The energy transition would not have been possible without the engagement of many thousands of people in this country, who became active locally for the expansion of renewable energies and also invested in it – to counteract the energy corporations and the great majority of municipal providers who wanted to keep investing in fossil structures. This clearly turned power relations in the energy market upside down. Empirical studies show that what primarily interested and still interests people is not financial advantages but climate protection or regional added value. We also see that through local engagement for the energy transition social cohesion was strengthened and further positive social results were achieved. It is true that only those people who have money can invest, and for many people this is not possible. What is essential now is to fight for the possibility that all people can participate in the energy transition and co-shape it. The policy of the federal government at present goes in precisely the opposite direction.

    What is now imperative is to redefine in what direction the energy transition should develop and to use people’s immense regard for and acceptance of this large-scale project to accomplish a fundamental reconstruction in the direction of more democracy, more justice, and more ecological responsibility. Up to now the discussion was too narrowed to its technological, economic, and bureaucratic aspects.

    Leidig: The example of the Wolfhagen public utilities company points in a hopeful direction: an energy net and company in public hands with the participation of small investors from the local citizenry; 100 per cent renewable energy for all with no power cuts, orientation to energy saving, and prices that penalise high consumption.

    Dellheim: However, two big BUTS have to be mentioned in this success story. First, the success of ‘Germany’s energy transition’ relates only – though this is indeed important – to the additionally produced and consumed energy. In other words, there is no increasing substitution of nuclear and fossil energy provision by renewable energies predominantly produced locally. Second, a corporation-friendly energy policy continues to dominate. Large- scale offshore wind and solar projects involve new ecological problems and reinforce socially destructive corporate and power structures. We still don’t have a truly solidary solar energy transition. Precisely for this reason engagement on a municipal and regional level is very important for truly socio-ecological projects and the organising of forces for a sustainable policy change.

    Brand: What status do debates like living well, solidary economy, commons, energy democracy, and socio-ecological transformation have within  the left and throughout society?

    Novy: For me, GLFA is not only a concrete utopia; above all it challenges us to tie together sustainability and solidarity, equality and diversity, one’s own good life and everyone else’s. In this sense it actually systematically links social and ecological questions as well as local answers through its generalisability. In view of society’s (and the left’s) incapacity to deal with these two contradictions constructively, GLFA thus helps to orient and focus a left political movement. The great advantage of this path is that it enables dialectical thinking and action that can deal with contradiction. While degrowth reduces a complex question (‘what in the great transformation should shrink, what should grow?’) to a simple and provocative formula, GLFA opens a sphere of thinking and acting for a political movement in current transformation processes. GLFA optimally combines with a movement of learning and searching, which, it is true, shares a utopian horizon but undogmatically names the concrete steps and the actors of transformation who can implement what was designed at the drawing board.

    Görg: I see the advantage of GLFA also in its orientation to the future, which gets to the heart of the matter: How do we wish to live, and what does this mean for nature and our relation to it? Is such a life generalisable? By contrast, degrowth thematises very central causes of the problem, which are not so directly criticised in the GLFA context: the growth imperative of capitalist-constituted societies (even if the critique of capitalism in the degrowth context is still a delicate plant). Post-extractivism, on the other hand, tackles a specific growth strategy that underlies the development model in some countries. All these concepts address concrete experiences and offer diverse options to politicise them. I would not pit them against each other but would like to promote an exchange between them. No one has found the philosopher’s stone here.

    Setton: I agree with Christoph, these perspectives are not mutually exclusive but establish different focuses. In any case, it is important that these alternatives are not only discussed in ‘niches’ but in relation to concrete political confrontations. I think the connections between them can be developed. Up to now the left has very largely left the environment and climate discourse to other political forces, and when it does participate its demands are hardly distinguishable from those already in circulation.

    Brand: What role do degrowth perspectives play at the political-party level?

    Dellheim: In Die LINKE’s municipal electoral programmes and in some of its federal state election programmes free local public transport is an issue, and in Die LINKE’s actual party programme the idea has even been extended to public transportation as a whole. Especially in Thuringia, in its capital Erfurt, there are activities designed to lend reality to the idea. In the matter of public local transport there are initiatives in Germany and in Europe, which Die LINKE and the Party of the European Left can help to generalise. But they do not operate under the catchword degrowth. In our workshop at the Leizpig Degrowth Conference there were people who wanted to limit free public local transport to 10 kilometres daily. In that case people from my Berlin district at the eastern periphery could only use it to the eastern part of the city but not to the centre or to the City-West and certainly not back again home. We should mediate between the degrowth discourse and other discourses and activities that aim at a drastic reduction of energy and material consumption as well as climate and biodiversity protection.

    Leidig: To create municipalities with really alternative, socio-ecological practices and develop them into a power basis that goes beyond them – this in my opinion would be the most important task for Die LINKE.

    Novy: I would like to come back to a point of Daniela’s. The utopia of a successful socio-ecological transformation becomes concrete through many small success stories of other ways of working and living; then it seems feasible. This is positive. At the same time many of these alternative projects are organised from below into communities of like-minded people. This is clearly attractive for many engaged people; but it can lead to social movements remaining apolitical. Urban gardening and repair cafés only become political when conflicts are sought out and alliances forged so that systemic, institutional changes can be put into motion. I think it is necessary to overcome the widespread illusion that there is an invisible hand that makes a better world out of the multiplicity of small initiatives. This is a liberal illusion, which has, in times of neoliberalism, become attractive deep within left circles. No one knows the way such emancipatory systems and institutions would look in the areas of transportation, energy, and care services. Hence the need to seriously try things out and learn.

    Dellheim: In my district, where many poor people live, urban gardening is very popular. Municipal housing organisations want to be socially and ecologically proactive. In Berlin there is the Initiative for a Climate-Neutral Hospital and there is the beginning of communication between this project and the Berliner Energietisch.

    But the question is whether concrete activities are being supported and networked and becoming new starting points for political intervention for their promotion, generalisation, and further development and whether in so doing society is being sustainably democratised and is becoming increasingly more social, more just, and more ecological.

    Brand: It is quite probable that the 2-degree goal, although considered necessary, will not be reached. Although the impact will be different in different places, there will be sharper ecological and therefore social dislocations in the foreseeable future. However, the left will remain weak in most countries. What are the consequences of this?

    Dellheim: The dislocations have long since begun. If the left does not now finally push consistently for more solutions to problems and for democratisation and does not work at building solidary structures they will facilitate the growth of the problems and especially of violence. In this case they would deserve their further marginalisation, but the consequences would be dramatic, especially for the globally and socially weakest members of society.

    Görg: The 2-degree goal only salvages international climate policy, not the living conditions of those who are threatened by climate change. They are already under threat today in many regions of the world, and this will get worse in some cases (and not only in the small island countries of the Pacific). The only question is: How bad will it get and are we in the industrialised countries and in the global middle classes ready to ask others to make this sacrifice in order to protect our mode of life. One of the most important results of Paris was the success in problematising the 2-degree goal as a politically set goal and to politicise its implications. Unfortunately, it has up to now been almost impossible to politicise this still inadequate agreement in the direction of climate justice. The social movements in this direction are apparently dying down again, but they have to connect with the themes of degrowth and buen vivir.

    Novy: There is a historically tested way of dealing with big challenges, as climate change doubtless is: to guarantee a good life only for a minority. Here there are neoliberal, ethnic-nationalist, and military protagonists already putting this effectively into practice. A common basis of this today oftentimes still disunited camp could be the protection of our privileged, non-sustainable mode of life using all economic and military means. In order to prevent such an authoritarian and ethnic-nationalist neoliberalism from becoming a reality the broadest possible alliance is needed in my view, one that secures the civilisational minimal standard. Even this will be no easy task if we consider the developments towards ‘managed democracies’ in Hungary, Turkey, Brazil, and in many other places.

    Pichler: I agree with Andreas. A central consequence in my view is that we actually must think in terms of alliances. But I think they do not work as an ‘adding up’ of diverse forces, movements, groups, and parties but have to be seen as a process of searching for new strategies. Naturally, this is not all that realistic since authoritarian strategies are now being pushed through at an enormous tempo.

    Brand: Which alliances could promote a socio-ecological transformation, that is, a thoroughgoing change of the mode of production and life and of the relations of forces and instruments that support it?

    Novy: On the one hand, what is involved is a fight for a better variant of what exists – for a less excluding capitalism and a liberal constitutional state, for example. On the other, we need to show that in the long term capitalism, consumerism, the growth compulsion, and a view of politics that locates political action only in the state is incompatible with a sustainable mode of life and production. Happily, a consciousness, however diffuse, is growing at least in European society that our civilisation model is not sustainable. Educational work and political mobilisation would have to contribute – in the best Gramscian sense – to laying bare the contradictions and dealing with them in an emancipatory way. This begins with the tragic realisation that the great civilisational achievements of the labour movement were always only possible in times of growth. Even in Swedish welfare capitalism there was little substantial redistribution away from, and constraints on the power of, the local bourgeoisie. In times of crisis, whether in the inter-war years or right now in Latin America, this minority resorts to all means to secure their own power position. This is why the danger of authoritarianism, repression, and the dismantling of democracy is so great today.

    Dellheim: Two questions should be posed and extensively discussed. On the one hand: How – especially in the 1980s when the ecosystems were already dramatically overburdened – was it possible for the neoliberals to win their ‘revolution’ and structurally weaken the left? And, on the other hand: Why, since the outbreak of the most recent global financial crisis, which is linked to the crises of food, the environment, and resources, has the left on the whole remained stuck in a politically defensive position. The left could have been able to try and deploy their organisational force, their solidarity, for an attractive project and use appealing organisational forms on behalf of those who had a material and/or idealistic interest in overcoming these crises. Such a left project for a solidary mode of life was never consistently pursued. Whatever the case, this finally has to be done now – taking into account what has already been put in place and is worthy of further development, which can only be done, and critically/solidaristically accepted, on the basis of great openness, productive self-criticism, and willingness and capacity to forge alliances.

    Pichler: In my view it is by no means only in European society that there is a diffuse consciousness of the lack of sustainability. It is true that in the global South there is a strong desire on the part of many sectors of the population for a western lifestyle. But at the same time there are many struggles and conflicts (for example around the defence of land rights) into which ecological and social questions are automatically integrated. But this only works if ecology is perceived not just as organic products and pedestrian zones but as the bases of life and the problem of resources and is accordingly politicised. For the left in Europe I think it is decisive that the central actors of such struggles are mostly not workers in ‘classic’ wage relations. Instead they are often actors who live and work at the ‘margins’ of the capitalist mode of production (small farmers, the indigenous, immigrants, etc.) and base their interests and demands on this position. In my opinion, this is an important starting point for a shift of perspective within the left.

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