Socialist Foreign Policy Must Center Climate Change

Source: In These Times

As midterm elections loom, suddenly everyone is formulating a foreign policy for the Left. On August 9, Phyllis Bennis put forward “A Bold Foreign Policy Platform for the New Wave of Left Lawmakers,” for In These Times; on September 4, in Foreign Affairs, Daniel Nexon called for “a new progressive internationalism.” On September 13, Bernie Sanders wrote in the Guardianthat we need an “international progressive movement” to combat a rapidly coalescing “new authoritarian axis.” His motion was seconded by Yanis Varoufakis.

And it didn’t end there. Soon joining the call for a new progressive foreign policy were Daniel Bessner in the New York Times, Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post and more. All these pieces addressed traditional foreign policy questions and what progressives should pressure the U.S. government to do.

This piece is about something different: not primarily what candidates or the state should do but what we in the socialist movement should do, with or without state power—and how we can update our approach for the 21st century. (I am using socialist as a catchall term for all the anarchists, labor organizers, municipalists, feminists, anti-racists, gender activists and other progressives who make up our still-amorphous movement.)

Four New Developments

Let’s begin with one of Phyllis Bennis’ formulations for candidates: “A progressive foreign policy must reject U.S. military and economic domination and instead be grounded in global cooperation, human rights, respect for international law and privileging diplomacy over war.”

I agree with everything in this sentence, but have a problem with a paradigm that is so timeless. Add another sentence on denuclearization, demilitarization and conversion to a peace economy, and we could be back in the peace movement of the seventies. But our lives in the 21st century will be shaped by at least four new developments—including, most urgently, climate change—and these must fundamentally affect our foreign policy.

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