Post Blackouts, Post Eco-fascism: Public Power

By Brandon W

Public Power: An End to Investor-Owned Utilities

This past July, New York City was hit with two serious blackouts, which highlighted the ever increasing burdens on the city’s energy grid, an issue which will only become more pertinent as global climate change brings more frequent and more intense heat waves to hammer the city’s power infrastructure

One route to meeting the energy needs of poor and working people in NYC is public takeover of the power grid. The idea has gained momentum thanks in part to the NYC DSA’s Ecosocialist working group’s public power campaign. Bernie Sanders has endorsed the idea of public ownership of utilities, and even Bill de Blasio suggested, shortly after the blackouts, looking into New York City taking over Con Edison (although he must be too busy running for President to follow through on that idea). 

By divorcing the need to provide energy from the need to make a profit, a publicly-owned power grid would lower New Yorkers’ electricity bills. It could also help spur on a transition to using clean, renewable energy by allowing the public a greater say in where their energy comes from. 

A member of the Ecosocialists’ campaign, speaking anonymously, pointed out that because energy use is such an inescapable part of every New Yorker’s life, a public power campaign could be a gateway to the general concept of public ownership of crucial commodities. 

The working group itself is still ironing out a precise vision for how public ownership of the energy grid will take form, with major questions such as whether such a reform would occur at the state or city level.  

For comrades looking to get involved in this campaign, there will be a number of big events coming up this month:

  • State Senate and Assembly Hearings on Con Ed: A public hearing investigating the blackouts is being held in State Senate and Assembly Committees on Energy and on Corporations. The Eco-Socialist Working Group hopes to have a big turnout for the event.

    • Tuesday, September 3, 10 a.m.
      250 Broadway, 19th Floor, Room 1923 

  • New York City Council hearing the following day (pending confirmation):

    • Wednesday, September 4

  • A town hall at Brooklyn College, which is in the area that was hit hardest by the blackouts.

    • September 17

  • Prep meeting for a Public Power Strategy Planning Retreat

    • Thursday, September 5, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., held through Zoom

  • Public Power Strategy Planning Retreat

    •  Sunday, September 8th, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The campaign also plans to meet with local politicians, including with Queens City Council member Costa Constantinides and State Senator Zellnor Myrie. For more information on getting involved, reach out to climate@socialists.nyc

Fighting Eco-Fascism

The Ecosocialist working group is also taking part in the struggle against eco-fascism. 

This past July, Ecosocialist Working Group member Sarah Lyons helped put together a teach-in to raise awareness about the rise of eco-fascist ideology. 

This ideology was a motivating factor in both the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand and the more recent mass shooting in El Paso. As Natasha Lennard reported in The Intercept: “An entire paragraph of the [El Paso shooter’s] manifesto is dedicated to environmental degradation and Malthusian claims about the need to ‘get rid of enough people’ to protect ever dwindling resources,” and “the Christchurch shooter self-identified as an ‘eco-fascist, writing, ‘there is no nationalism without environmentalism.’”

Noted Nazi and influential alt-right figure Richard Spencer published a manifesto in 2017 that expressed eco-fascist ideas, and in Europe, eco-fascist ideas are gaining traction with far-right parties, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party in France. 

With the climate crisis only accelerating, it is reasonable to assume that eco-fascism will continue to increase in popularity in right wing circles.