Naïve Market Solutions for Climate Change Will Intensify the Looting of Africa

Patrick Bond, sociology professor at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, discusses the urgent need for climate reparations for Africa, in light of the COP26 climate summit, and why market solutions will not work to address the problems Africa is currently facing. Part 1 of 2.

Part 2 of this interview can be found here: The Urgent Need for Climate Reparations

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Rob Johnson:

Welcome to Economics And Beyond. I’m Rob Johnson, President Of The Institute For New Economic Thinking.

I’m here today with an extraordinary individual, Dr. Patrick Bond. He was born in Northern Ireland, he grew up in Alabama, educated on the East Coast of the United States, and then moved to South Africa. I feel like there’s a lily pond of global cauldrons, and your curiosity has taken you through a whole series of the places that teach us the lessons that disruption teaches a person who has the courage to look it in the eye.

He’s a professor of sociology at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. He’s written a great deal of really penetrating work on climate change and the role of what we might call the market or neoliberal system and its shortcomings. He’s written about climate justice, and he’s written about the evolution of the world and what he has referred to in recent presentations as deglobalization and particular focus on the so-called BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Patrick, thanks for joining me today. There’s just so many places we can go. And that’s all a tribute to the extraordinary work that you’ve done and the books that you’ve written, and the books and papers you’ve contributed to.

Patrick Bond:

Great to be with you here from Johannesburg to New York and so many things in between. And I’ve always learned from INET and from you and your colleagues, so thanks very much for having me.

Rob Johnson:

Well, thank you. I think my young scholars initiative will delight in the example that you set, and I want to work with you to illuminate that for them here in this next period in our conversation. Let’s start with the question of what inspired you to become an economist, and what inspired you to focus in South Africa?

Patrick Bond:

Well, I think particularly in the early 1980s when there was so much despair because of a Volcker shock that put the interest rates up so high and our student debts were climbing every moment. And the third-world debt crisis had broken out in Mexico, Argentina, 1982 and ‘84.

And so, as I was getting out of my undergraduate economics degree, it was an opening to ask whether economists really understood what was happening, especially where markets were meant to equilibrate. As I was curious about power relations and the economics department I was in, Swarthmore College had a very strong Keynesian orientation.

And I was very fortunate also to do an honors’ thesis with F.M. Sheer, Fred Sheer who’s an industrial organization, the leader. And that was a moment to say, “Well, how well are these markets clearing?” Walter Wriston said, “No, don’t worry.” He was a Citibank CEO. He said, “Countries don’t go bankrupt.”

Well, that was very clearly wrong by the early eighties. And similarly, not just North, South, but what I could see is I moved to Philadelphia, I worked in the Fed for a couple of years, doing Community Reinvestment Act, bank examining, trying to figure out where the flows of funds cut off areas like West Philly, where I lived, which was Red Line.

Later, it was going to be subject to predatory lending, too much finance without much care about income and exploding adjustable rate mortgages which wrecked especially African-American households’ finances. This is even before the 2007, ‘08 crisis and I think these are the problems let’s say, of finance out of control. My PhD was about Zimbabwe, uneven Zimbabwe in which the financial markets over the course of a century, helped to explain the broader set of things.

Working in the Fed and moving from Swarthmore to Wharton School of Finance, Ed Herman was my main teacher, a wonderful scholar of power and corporate financial malevolence. And then to David Harvey, my PhD supervisor at Johns Hopkins in political economy, economic geography.

These were windows that helped to clarify. And if I found one place where clarification was needed in 1985, with the fight against apartheid being bogged down and under massive pressure from states of emergency, something extraordinary happened that inspired me and many people, which was that the banks finally succumbed to pressure from protestors. I was one of them saying, “You shouldn’t greenline the apartheid system while you redline African-American neighborhoods in your own city.”

We went all around the US with these campaigns to pull banks out. And suddenly it happened in September, 1985, the government here under P.W. Botha, the main facistic prime minister, he actually declared a default. This was even before Brazil’s 1987 default. And in that sense, we really saw white business breaking from white racism, because finance had become a wedge in there and broken the spirit of that combination.

And I felt really by putting pressure on the banks, the financial markets were quick to respond. They certainly were public relations conscious as we’ve seen with other divestment strategies, BDS on Israel and especially the divestment of fossil fuels more recently. And I think those kind of lessons and moving to the most unequal city in the world, as it moved out of apartheid working with community groups in the early 1990s, the civic movement, the world’s leading urban social movement protests all the time.

It was quite inspiring, the invigoration of a South Africa going through this transition. Having a chance to work in President Mandela’s office in 1994, when he needed a fast typist to put the first public policy, the Reconstruction And Development Program together, I was the chief drafter and could really see how this power was playing out. And I think political economy later in the early 2000s when the World Summit On Sustainable Development was hosted here in Johannesburg. Becoming also a political ecologist, understanding the ecological aspects and the untenability of our current accumulation process.

And then finally a third factor, political economy, political ecology, but it’s ultimately knowledge production as I became a formal academic. Knowledge production that comes from the social movements, the labor movements, the environmentalists, the youth, the women, LGBTQ. These movements have really changed power when they’ve focused.

And an example would be for getting access to AIDS medicines, which had been on patent and therefore unaffordable, breaking through around 2001 in Doha. But basically getting what was then an AIDS denialist, President, Thabo Mbeki, to finally start offering generics through the public sector, free, 7 million people and raising life expectancy from 52 to 65.

These are some of the highlights, not that I had anything to do with them, but that I could witness and it shaped the way I’ve seen power. And I think that’s been very valuable and I hope that the practices of epistemology, knowledge production in the context of intense activism, can continue to become a source of not just inspiration for justice, but also knowledge about how our systems work.

Rob Johnson:

Yes. Well, how would I say, your curiosity taking you to these places that were in turmoil tends to, what you might call, it’s like muscles. You’re exercising the muscles of imagination. And after you see either a failure or you see tremendous outcome, you can understand a little bit more what possibilities are, what levers there are for humankind.

And one of the things that inspired me to want to talk to you, was that I see so much despair right now in relation to climate change in particular, but the pandemic and other things and to see someone who’s actively talking. And I’ve read things you’ve done in the last 18 months, which has what I’ll call north star of hope embedded within it.

I think, how did I say, you exercised your muscles very well. I know you’ve written a number of books going back now to your going to Africa. Elite transitioned from apartheid to neoliberalism, which was about South Africa. Another one was it was a Talk Left, Walk Right? I remember that’s the-

Patrick Bond:

The dance our ruling party here is very good at. It’s a nationalist dance where your neoliberal, economic policies but the old Soviet-era radicalism still-

Rob Johnson:

Zimbabwe’s plunge, the accumulation of capital in South Africa, all of these different… I mean, you’ve been prolific for years in a realm. And what I want to, how do I say, is we’re building a bridge from you to now and you acting now. My commission on global economic transformation started out by saying, we have to focus on what are the disruptors of the world? Finance, technology, globalization, meaning the breakdown of governance as we knew it, and climate.

And then people started to talk about migration as an induced disruptor. And then we got a briefing from a young woman from the International Office Of Migration where she said, “In the continent of Africa, there is not a development strategy like the East-Asian model because of global supply chains and automation, machine learning. We’re an equatorial region and subsistence farming is going to get fried if we don’t make progress on climate change. And by 2075, we anticipate that there will be five billion people in the continent of Africa.”

They don’t have a development strategy, at least that follows the historic traditions of East-Asian, infant-industry protection and the like. They didn’t feel like they knew how to stop climate having a huge impact on the people of that continent, a very large population and some concern. I mean, even famous scholars like Danny Rodrick that the capital intensity of information based production will displace labor, it’s not a substitute any longer.

Others have been a little more optimistic about the ability to work in a knowledge-based, service-based economy but the transitions in Africa overwhelm. This is a commission of 20 some people and they said, “Can we write about it? Is there anywhere to go? It’s so daunting, but it’s such a large challenge on the horizon.”

You are immersed there. You see all kinds of potentials, corruptions, everything. How can the world help the continent of Africa develop and be a fundamental part of the transformation of climate that we see as necessary for all of us but particularly for those people?

Patrick Bond:

Rob, you’ve put so many things there that it’s very intimidating. I think if we work on some of the ways Africa’s being drained, really, truly looted by the North and by the BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa block, which are often the middlemen in the raw materials part of that value chain, then there’s some interesting prospects.

Because if you think of illicit financial flows and one United Nations Economic Commission on Africa studies now estimating $148 billion a year and elicit the interest profits, the dividends that are flowing out often for very poorly compensated extraction of our natural resources, which we think can be contested. If we can get rid of GDP and have a proper measure of what happens in an economy like South Africa or the rest of the continent.

And then thirdly, I think what is critical now to raise, in addition to this illicit and licit financial outflows and the depletion of our natural resource base, the third must be what the North and the BRICS owe Africa as a climate debt. The reparations for precisely what you’ve said. It’s once we’ve seen say the last 20 years, four countries have really been hit hard. Mozambique next door here, especially with two cyclones in 2019 killed more than 1,000 but just really devastated big chunks of Mozambique.

And in one of them now, there’s a war raging with Islamic inspired resistance and [To Tau 00:14:18] and Exxon Mobil and China National Petroleum, and ENI and South Africa’s Sasol trying to get access to the fourth-largest gas field in the world. [Kabuta 00:14:26] got a terrible war already underway with South African troops there defending Western companies.

And I think when you put that kind of damage, both that there’s victims and villains in the climate story, it really would help us to begin to, especially as economists, to enumerate what it is that Africa’s owed and then how to pay it. And usually it’s three things, it’s loss and damage, the devastation that occurred in those cyclones in Mozambique. We would add to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, which were hit in 2019 by that cyclone wave. Madagascar now terrible drought, and then up the coast Kenya. And in fact, the horn of Africa with locusts that are again a product of the climate, the changing conditions.

Those to me represents sites where Africans, and I work closely with a Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and other networks across the continent, saying real justice would require the loss and damage be compensated by those who did it. A polluter pays. It’s not a very radical argument, it’s what environmental economics is based on and internalizing externalities.

And secondly, there’s adaptation and resilience costs that we’re now beginning to see, must be born. And we must have climate proofing of our cities, irrigation for drying out fields. All sorts of things are required now that weren’t. And then thirdly, we need to compensate Africans for not being able to industrialize. Just as you said, that there’s no import substitution prospect with high carbon-intensive manufacturing capacity, because that space has been taken by the North and by the BRICS.

Those three elements of repaying Africans over the period ahead, I think are critical, and it’s very interesting to ask what price would that come at? Because typically, a hundred billion dollars a year, Hillary Clinton promised in the Copenhagen Accord in 2009. She was the secretary of state and that was the sweetener to bribe support from many countries. Well, there’ll be a green climate fund and there’ll be other climate finance, well that hasn’t worked out well. We can talk about some of the reasons carbon markets, for example, and offsets have been terrible disappointments.

And secondly, I think that let’s say misdirection of some of these funds mean that the people really most adversely affected by the climate crisis aren’t getting the resources. In these mistakes that have been made the last 10, 12 years since Copenhagen, we should learn some lessons that I hope in Glasgow will motivate. I know it’s motivating many of my colleagues and civil society are making very clear demands that the climate debt be put back.

You might recall, Rob, that Todd Stern, the then made negotiator at the UNFCCC for the US State Department said in Copenhagen, “We recognize we put the carbon up there. We’re the source of this historic problem. Over 500 billion gigatons out of two and a half trillion, so about a fifth of the world’s problem can be traced to US industrialization and fossil fuels.” But he said, “As for reparations, I just categorically reject that.”

And he did it because of the US Senate. He couldn’t get anything at all through, in any case, and had to make a pseudo treaty. And that unfortunately then took the case of a Paris Climate Agreement clause saying, “We forgive liabilities if we sign on this agreement, that the North or the BRICS because it’s number one is the US historically. Number two is China, Russia, Brazil, India is there, South Africa a little bit further down, along with Germany, UK, Canada, Japan, as the big polluters historically.

But us paying that debt and I speak to you now from the global North, Johannesburg’s middle class suburbs where the universities are. Those of us in the global North, and those of us who care about economics and internalizing externality so market imperfections are addressed, we have to take it on. Now, what should we pay? What is the cost per ton?

Now the Stiglitz and Sternwork put it at 40 to $80, but Nework puts it at $3,000, right? And I think that’s one of the most interesting questions. Obviously, it can’t cost massive damage, huge losses of life. Insurance companies do, 60% of the loss and damage in the West has been covered the last couple of years, 4% for the global South in contrast.

But let’s say that we go into some mode of ethical multilateralism, not by the way a multilateralism based on making profits. The way I fear, Mark Carney and the financiers are thinking about a hundred trillion dollar green economy and a transition fund. If you get the market rate of return to attract all those unit trusts and big institutional investors in. That’s what he’s after and I don’t think we can do that. You can see what the market is doing. The price of coal, the price of oil, the price of gas are record highs right now. Capitalism is sending all the wrong signals about whether markets can fix this problem on their own.

I think now the reparations as African-Americans have demanded justly for their enslavement and Jim Crow and all the racism that continues in Black Lives Matter. I think that just as well goes for African lives and a climate debt movement. I can feel it from groups like Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and [Woman 00:20:03] a feminist alliance and Friends Of The Earth and many groups are saying, “Yeah, we should get back to that.”

Bill McKibben wrote a beautiful piece in the New Yorker in December of 2020, and Naomi Klein has been a great proponent of paying the climate debt, recognizing what’s due. Joe Stiglitz called for some of this to be on the agenda, even advocating climate sanctions against the United States. Really thinking about what can be done to acknowledge that the world’s greatest market failure, as Nick Stern puts it, is the climate crisis. We have to be able to address that in the field of economics.

Rob Johnson:

Well, in reading some of your writings in recent years and in actually even recent months, I saw you underscore people like Dr. Hansen, the famous James Hansen from Climate Science. I saw Greta Thunberg’s intensity in saying, “You guys paint a picture like you’re doing something but you’re not really doing it.” And I’ve seen an awful lot of people, which you might call, with the habit structure, that whatever we’re going to do, markets are going to do it.

But in your writing, you seem to be pretty clear that that faith in markets is a bit of a false God, given the scope and the scale of this challenge. What do you think? What are the five things? If you were the czar of Glasgow COP26, what are the five things you’d say, “We’re not walking out of this room until I get those things”?

Patrick Bond:

Well, it’s not hard for me to drop a list because a climate justice movement has done precisely that. There are roughly a half a dozen ways to frame what should happen. Maybe just as a preface, I think everyone including James Hansen, who called the Paris Climate Agreement bullshit for not having sufficient emissions cuts. He said, “It’s a fraud, a fake.” And Greta Thunberg, as you said, even just in September has said, “Blah, blah, blah, is what we’re getting from our global elites in the fake negotiations in the UNFCCC. Blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t mean anything does it?”

I think if I were there with the forces that are on the street, they’ll be out there, they’re blocking roads. Manhattan was shut down a little bit by Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Youth, and the Fridays For Future, Greta Thunberg’s movement, very, very inspiring aren’t they? And that seems to me what they’re asking in addition to the greenhouse gas cuts, right, the dramatic cuts so that we get to a genuine, not net zero but a zero carbon emissions and methane emissions. Let me give you the five that then come up logically. I happened to spend a day with our leading trade union as-

Then come up logically, I happened to spend a day with our leading trade union it’s affected in the metal sector. Steel, aluminum, the smelting sectors, deep mining, auto production, heavy industry petrochemicals. And what they’re asking for is a just transition. And I think they have every right to do so. They’ve had some relatively high pay compared to other workers, but the devastation of communities where coal-fired power plants are shutting down, as well as the big industrial facilities. That really requires subsidization to reboot the economy. Some of it can be done with renewable energy in those sites. The Eastern side of South Africa can be retooled from a huge coal site, 85% of the coal I’m using to power this laptop is from our one parastatal agency. And it could be turned because it’s one big powerful institution and there’s a bit of rhetoric.

Unfortunately, they also think gas is a transition fuel, but I think that would be the just transition to take care of workers and communities in energy. In transport, but also the corporate agriculture system with its high emissions from fertilizers and pesticides. Urbanization processes, which need to be [inaudible 00:24:13] production systems. Consumption where the Western materialist mode, we have to change that. And disposal because of so much methane that escapes from landfills. A second area, redressing social injustices around particularly gender, race, indigenous people, and migrants, and refugees as you’ve said. And especially future generations. Those are constituencies that really haven’t had their say in the UNFCCC. Third, technology. How can we ensure that the fault solutions or nuclear energy or dangerous forms of geoengineering are dispensed with. And that we actually go for genuine nature based solutions, not the sort of GMO crops and things. But a genuine say soil science that re jigs our relationship in which carbon can be sunk and sequestered properly. But also the intellectual property that is held back.

We saw that with the COVID 19 vaccine. Yeah. We call it vaccine apartheid. In which the North has just kept all of these vaccines and kept them under intellectual property for a few Big Pharma Corp. So getting rid of intellectual property on solar and wind and other important technologies. And then moving to the fourth, which I think is going to be the hardest because it involves taking the power over the fossil fuels in the reserves of the big oil companies, coal companies, gas companies. And really forcing them to declare that these are stranded assets. They’re unburnable carbon, and they should be written down. And partly that’s going to require the $6 trillion or so of annual subsidies that states give fossil fuels, to be removed. And then finally, I think on the financing side, I’ve mentioned already, the carbon markets have been a disaster.

And as partly as you say, you can’t expect a market solution to a problem where the bankers who are managing this can’t even control their own industry. And you see that, I think with the financialization. Because of quantitative easing the buffet indicator, the measure of financial asset overvaluation, the market capitalization over GDP. That’s gone to unprecedented highs in this country, 400%. In the US 240, way out of historic whack. And what that does is push up a lot of ethereal assets, including carbon. So the right to pollute, privatization of the air shall we say. Selling the right to pollute becomes a speculative commodity. And as it did in 2006 and 2008, it goes way up, crashes. April 2020, as it had risen again, to become the world’s best performing commodity. It crashed again because of the lockdowns and the financial chaos. And we fear now with the financial markets, that way overvalued ratios. We’re going to see another crash of carbon. And that faith that markets could do, climate financing will be blown.

So we really need to move away from the commodification of climate finance and an acknowledgement that there should be the climate reparations. That the funding flows shouldn’t be loans and, high price speculative venture capital ideas that you see floating around for new blended funds, but instead grants. And these are just simple reparations that are really owed to people who are the victims. They did the least to cause a problem, but in relative terms, they’re getting hit the hardest. And I think Rob that’s where a good economist will say, yeah, a reparations payment.

One that would not just be a fee to continue the practice of polluting. You pay a fee, you keep it going, but instead a fine, and then we would ban it. And the last point is we’ve done that before with another macro problem for the environment. The ozone whole expansion because of chlorofluorocarbons in 1987, in the UN. Even with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, there was an agreement to cap and then to reduce over the next seven years to a total phase out by 1996. The Montreal protocol then solved this problem of the expanding ozone hole. Not through a market technique, cap and trade or emissions trading, but through banning. And the state has to come in at this point because it is a genuine existential risk to all of us. Isn’t it?

Rob Johnson:

And so I guess we… I want to come back to your political economy. Meaning there are vested interests on the other side. When we talk about just transition, it makes me feel good. Not only for helping people who’ve been hurting, but it makes me also feel good. Because people will not out of fear, resist the transitions that we have to make. So I’m in a place where I see what people call the merchants of doubt.

Patrick Bond:


Rob Johnson:

Where I see people fomenting. So, social media. Fear and despair in a place like West Virginia as the scholar, Bob Pollin has taught me. And I guess what I’m trying to understand in the context of Africa, is there are whole lot of stranded assets that people may be willing to fight to extract more value from. In Russia, in Saudi Arabia, in South Africa, in the United States, in Canada, and more. How do we, as political economists not looking at markets in isolation, but looking at political economy as an integrated system where power. Meaning wealth among other things, tries to influence the enforcement of the rules, the making of the rules, the type of regulations. And how do we illuminate who’s getting in the way of the survival of mankind? [crosstalk 00:30:26].

Patrick Bond:

That’s the right big framing, isn’t it? Because at some point we’re going to have to use every tool, including markets, to prevent extinction. And I think if we use one example, it’s going to be on the agenda for years to come. Which is imposing a carbon border adjustment mechanism, a climate tax on international trade. I would guess that the kind of Trump supporters in the blue collar community in the US, the working class who said, we’re getting undermined by jobs, moving abroad. They’ll be quite happy to hear that. Okay, well, we will now put a block on say steel or aluminum that comes to the US from South Africa because of the high carbon intensity, the long distance shipping and so forth. But it does strike me that we’ve got to get this kind of politics right. The political economy, shouldn’t just be a protectionist.

And dare I say, imperialist European Union, which is going to start the process with the carbon border adjustment mechanism in 2023. It will hit South Africa very hard. Britain’s about to hit us very hard with long distance air transport taxes, which I think are perfectly justified. But our tourist industry, which is too much neo-colonial Brit centered needs to decolonize. But in doing so, let’s make sure that a just transition can be financed because the revenues that I can anticipate treasury, in the US with big deficits, looking greedily at more revenues. If you put on a higher and higher carbon border adjustment mechanism, those really should go back to the people affected. Adjust transition finance from the reparations, a down payment that I think could come from the revenues from a carbon border adjustment mechanism. Look, this is controversial because in speaking about this today with my mates in the trade unions, there’s no consensus about how you get that kind of sanctions, especially against a country like South Africa. But you would agree, Rob I’m sure all economists would agree, when Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement in June 2017 as Nicholas Sarcosy on the right.

And Naomi Klein on the left said, we need to have sanctions against the United States. We need to punish them. We need to make sure that that unfair advantage that the US producers now have, because they’re not in the Paris agreement. We need to make sure that we correct the markets. I’d love to see a sort of logic in which we do hit trade. Now you’ve said a great deal. Of course, you’re right about all the ways Africa’s deindustrialization through globalization, and its reprimarization. In other words, a return to primary cash crops, or GDP that used to be 22% manufacturing down to about 11 across the continent, South Africa especially. But what about a relocalization that particularly with new technologies. And we could get 3D printing and set up all sorts of manufacturing operations that could overcome what we have traditionally felt. Which was the disadvantage of relatively small and atomized markets on this continent, compared to a massive production capacity in East Asia.

And when we deindustrialized, because we imported those East Asian goods, it was partly because we didn’t count the carbon costs of the production and the shipping. And if we can do that and make sure we have a deglobalization that better balances. As our greatest economist here, Samir Amin put it, a delinking from the most destructive circuits. This is not being like a Burma or Albania, or North Korea. It’s not being a [inaudible 00:34:03] project. It’s being one, that’s sensible about things like, are we in international financial markets doing okay. What about our mining and the extractive industries, are we getting our values worth? And, again and again if you look at these relationships, the answer’s obviously not. And many of the relationships are political economic in explanation. We had a massacre in a platinum mine because the man who’s now our President Cyril Ramaphosa was the main owner here and the mine was [inaudible 00:34:30].

And he emailed in a request during a Wildcat strike in 2012. You know, Thomas Piketty begins his book with this terrible incident. And 34 people were massacred because President Ramaphosa, who has apologized for these emails. He said, look I shouldn’t have sent them. But he said, don’t treat this like a labor dispute. These are dastardly criminals, these mine workers on strike. He sent that to the colleagues at [inaudible 00:34:56], to the police minister, to the mining minister. It’s that kind of, let’s say a distortion of our own democratic possibility. When our own leaders are also making a lot of money out of the kind of globalization that under develops or mal develops. And I think a deglobalization, look it’s happening anyway, you know, as well as anyone Rob that trade to GDP peaks in 2007. FDI to GDP peaks in 2008, cross border financial flows peaks 2008, they crash in 2020. They’re coming up again. But frankly, we’re on a pretty steady, downward decline in economic globalization and the value chains at the heart of it. Which had 28% in 2007 of a typical manufactured product, within a global value chain went down to 21% by 2019 before COVID. I think these are the kinds of questions about, well, maybe this is our opportunity to genuinely build back better with less dependency on the worst tendencies in the world economy.

Rob Johnson:

How do you see right now, the American administration? You mentioned Trump should be penalized, and now it feels like America’s coming back to the table. But are they coming back to the table, which you might call in neo-liberal robes, or are they coming back to the table, more what you might call pragmatic and urgent sense?

Patrick Bond:

Well, John Kerry projects that urgency. But the question is whether those five objectives, in addition to the obvious one, mandatory accountable emissions cuts. They’re binding penalties if you don’t do them, that would be obviously something everyone agrees on. But the other five aspects we would call climate justice, Kerry wants nothing to do with those. He’s just shown no indication of any solidarity with those most adversely affected. For example, as you see in the huge struggles of First Nations of Native Americans against pipelines in Minnesota, in the West and all. I think these are the kinds of moments where the US and its fracturing, and the inability of the center to hold. Biden’s falling popularity and the inability to win even basic infrastructure deals in his own party in the Senate. These do reflect a quagmire, he’s really found a ceiling as to what can be done inside the system.

And that’s why the external forces, the social movements, civil rights type movement, which made such big changes. Okay, it was assimilated in some ways. But an anti apartheid movement, which forced even Ronald Reagan to sign off on a bill that included sanctions against this country, South Africa, when it was white ruled. Things that you wouldn’t expect. I mean, I saw that for example, with feminist movements against sexual harassment the last few years. And especially Black lives matter, to tear down these statues of the traitors of the Civil War they’re so insulting. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia. These kind of things I thought would never go. And I think those are aspects where if the left has no illusions with Biden the way, unfortunately you’d have to agree. The left still maintained illusions with Clinton in the late nineties with Obama in the 2010s.

But it’s pretty clear with both Biden and Kamala Harris, that there’s no real reach out to bring in the Bernie Sanders ring, and generally to dismiss that force. And I think you do see the bubbling of an international left also disgusted with the inability of John Kerry to deliver Joe Biden’s broken promises on fossil fuel drilling. Or the inability, for example, to deal even in a place like California, with their drilling rights that Gavin Newsom, the governor, continues to offer even while his state’s on fire. So let’s say that the gap between the elites and the base is ever widening, and there may be something very valuable in that because the illusions that a neoliberal version of a kind of corporate limited democracy. The illusions in that that many would’ve had, have fallen away quite quickly.

Rob Johnson:

Well, we go back, if you would say to the Franklin Roosevelt new deal up through the time of Lyndon Johnson. And there was a very kind of strong sense that Roosevelt increased the credibility of government. Though people did fight with it even in 1938, but I know one of my co-founders of INET Bill Janeway’s father Elliot wrote a book called the Struggle for Survival. I see more recently, Neil Klein’s older brother, Seth has written a book called the Good War. Which is about the need to override. Which you might call the faith in the market system to provide for us and to create an analogy to war preparation. At the same time, and this is really the form of a question. In the United States, it used to be, there was a pendulum. The people that were on the Lyndon Johnson side or the Franklin Roosevelt side believed more in government, less in markets.

The people on the Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater side believed more in markets and less in governance. But we now have a cynicism on the left about the capture of governance by concentrated wealth and power. And I think the despondency perhaps that brought Donald Trump to the table by saying the system is rigged. And in many of the states like Michigan, where I come from, he was victorious in 2016. How do we go to Seth Klein where Franklin Roosevelt’s recipe, seeing that the market system unbridled is not sufficient. And reengage, or reinvigorate I should say, the faith in expertise, and faith in governance to do the job. When it’s really literally war preparation, what you’re afraid of is extermination. And there’s no choice. Are people yet in the free of a bind where they can look at climate change as that ominous that we need to change. And we need to pledge our faith in a different way of doing things. You have a lot of experience down in the trenches and seeing all of these dynamics, but how do you convince the general public?

Patrick Bond:

Well, it’s not really up to… It’s not up to me to change perspectives. I will try to serve the cynicism if it’s not going to turn into a right wing, in this country xenophobic, in the US all manner of sort of paleo con tendencies. And yet what I do see there is quite exciting, insofar as let’s say, some opposition will scare Joe Biden and maybe even a Joe [inaudible 00:42:19] into doing something. Now, in the 1930s, I think you’d agree Rob. If Franklin Roosevelt didn’t have a very serious communist party with the Soviet Union sort of there, and two socialist parties. That new deal may not have really amounted to much more than what Biden’s talking about. So I think if there had been from Bernie Sanders, some sort of break to the left that might have changed those power balances so that, that threat.

We certainly felt it in this country in July. You might have seen some of the news that there were riots and looting. And we had about 400 deaths in a period of about a week because of just desperation. Some would call it some conspiracy or some sort of residual support for the prior president, Jacob Zuma from his Zulu ethnic community. But I don’t think so. I think there was a powder keg, it blew. And what the president here Cyril Ramaphosa did was to immediately come forward with a grant to try to calm things down. It’s not the new deal. It’s not a social policy we’re talking of. It’s a minor grant of about $22 a month, but this is the sort of thing in a way that… To be a good reformer, you’d agree with me Rob. You actually need some revolutionaries to be a jam maker on the inside as Jesse Jackson who would teach me back in the eighties and the rainbow days, you need the tree shakers on the outside.

And maybe that fruit that falls down would be right. I see, for example, in Glasgow. I see such disgusted and cynicism, so well put by Greta Thunberg. Blah, blah, blah. Such discussed that a delegitimization of those negotiators probably is inevitable. Which then compels activists to say, well, what’s our plan B? Because the idea that we’ve got some Montreal protocol that’ll be like 1987 and solve the problem. That’s not happening. The powerful forces of the fossil fuel industry. And for frankly, capitalism wanting profits from the status quo are overwhelming. So there it’s where Naomi Klein in her book, This Changes Everything. I think it was exactly right to look to forces at the base. The Dakota access pipeline in the US problem woke people up to just how much of the fossil fuels travels. And how easy it is actually sometimes is to stop. It’s that let’s say Achilles heel in logistics.

We’ve seen it the last few weeks in much of the world. Where the shipping, the containers aren’t sufficient. The logistics that the ports are breaking down. And it’s in those respects I think a blockadia that’s more and more skilled and capable. The project I worked with called the EJ Atlas, Environmental Justice Atlas, actually has 3000 of these blockadia projects of various kinds. Some fossil fuel and petrochem and so forth. But I think that’s actually still got a lot of weight. Now, why would I say that after such huge disasters, ecological, economic public health. It’s partly because what I’ve seen in Africa the last 10 years. You probably remember in Tunisia in early 2011, after a young man set himself on fire Mohammad [inaudible 00:45:24], because of an IMF structural adjustment program that called for a value at attacks imposed. And he set himself on fire.

There was an Arab spring. North African uprising that really shook out a lot of bad governments. And it wasn’t just there. All down the continent revolts have happened. We are having one right now in Sudan after a coup. I could go through a dozen countries where we had at least some progress through changes of government through popular protest. Now I’m in a country and a city that’s called the protest capital of the world. The World Economic Forum rates our working class over the last 15 years as the most angry and confrontational. We have what are called service protests in the communities.

Angry and confrontational. We have what are called service protests in the communities. We’ve had a student movement that demanded and actually won through sustained protest-free, university education, Fees Must Fall, and we’ve seen women rise up in various moments against the patriarchy and sexual violence, and we’ve seen communities demand water. Maybe most uninspiringly, the activists for AIDS medicines that I’ve mentioned actually did defeat big pharma corps, the US government, which was certainly behind trade-related intellectual property system, and an AIDS denialist president, at a time none of us thought that a thousand activists… Treatment Action Campaign was their name, could actually… These are people who were stigmatized, they were suffering from opportunistic infections, and none of us sitting in our academic armchairs believe that this bottom-up force would actually make the change that, as I mentioned, have given us 52 life expectancy rises up to 65 over about a dozen years.

Those are the sorts of things, Rob, that in a most unequal city in the world, Johannesburg, most unequal country, with so much residual racism, so much patriarchy and ecological destruction, I think they all come together. And I remember when I was looking at all of this when I was in my late teens, early twenties at Swarthmore, just thinking “Can all of these processes be reduced to market relations or utility or the price mechanism?” Clearly not, I’ve had a chance, at least in my intellectual work, to scan varieties of literature, and especially from the African continent, critical dependency theory, like Samir Amin or Ben Magubane, Dani Nabudere, who really have said a big part of our problem is world capitalism.

I never met a Walter Rodney, one of the greats, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, but we have a great tradition in this country, and we have African feminists who are very important contributors to thinking about social reproduction and how that cheapens African labor for multinational capital and extractive industries. All of these do come together in a way I hope more economists will also be able to broaden out to capture in their thinking.

Rob Johnson:

This concludes the first part of my interview with Patrick Bond.

And check more, from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at ineteconomics.org

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