The day of the Global Strike for the Climate will soon be upon us on Friday the 20th September and many will be asking, just where does the Socialist Party stand on this issue. Our presence will not be prominent and our voice is not going to heard by many but we do hold a message for those school students and young folk who seek a better future for themselves.
The future of the human species - if there is to be a future - must be socialist. Capitalism is not the system through which we will provide a sustainable future. To support capitalism is to sign onto a ecocide pact. Capitalism is a wealth-concentrating system that allows a small number of people to dominate not only economic, but also political decision-making. Because people believe there is no alternative to capitalism, the docility of the people has contributed greatly to keeping intact this rapacious and voracious society. It keeps on existing. The idea of a zero growth, sustainable society is not new and in recent years has been put forward by many in the environment movement. But while desirable it is contradicted by a fatal flaw. The ecologist camp still stand for the continuation of the market system. This must mean the continuation of the capitalist system which is the cause of the climate crisis.
Many environmentalists advocate a society based on cooperation and production for use, a sustainable society where production is in harmony with the environment and affairs are run in a decentralised and democratic manner. They argue that only in such a system can ecological problems such as global warming be solved. However, it is clear that this sustainable society is not socialism, for the continuance of exchange economy with its the market is assumed, together with private ownership. Their ultimate aim is an economy, based on smaller-scale enterprises, with a greatly-reduced dependence on the world market. Yet, they remain firmly wedded to a form of capitalism, holding a belief that capitalism can be reformed so as to be compatible with achieving an environmentally sustainable society.
If the environmental crisis is to be solved, this capitalist system must go. What is required is political action - political action aimed at replacing this system by a new and different one. There can be no justification, on any grounds whatsoever, for wanting to retain an exploitative system which robs workers of the products of their labour, which puts privileged class interests and profit before the needs of the community, which robs the soil of its fertility, plunders nature of its resources and destroys the natural systems on which all our lives depend.
Climate change in particular has radicalising potential, as more and more people are beginning to question the prevailing economic system’s detrimental effect on the environment. But mainstream environmental groups aren’t offering a coherent critique of capitalism’s ecological consequences or doing the work of presenting alternatives. Capitalism has inflicted incalculable harm on the inhabitants of the earth. Tragically, the future could be even worse for a simple reason: capitalism’s destructive power, driven by its inner logic to expand, is doing irreversible harm to our ecosystems. Almost daily we hear of species extinction, global warming, resource depletion, deforestation, desertification, and on and on to the point where we are nearly accustomed to this gathering catastrophe. Our planet cannot indefinitely absorb the impact of profit-driven, growth-without-limits capitalism. Unless we radically change our methods of production and pattern of consumption, we will reach the point where the harmful effects to the environment will become irreversible. Even the most modest measures of environmental reform are resisted by sections of the capitalist class. This makes the establishment of a socialist society all the more imperative.
One way or another, the coming years will be decisive for the fate of human civilisation. Unless greenhouse gases are swiftly and drastically curbed the result will be environmental catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale, threatening the survival of all life on the planet. The reality of climate change is already manifesting itself in an increasing number of extreme weather events, such as heat-waves, droughts, floods and typhoons. Melting ice sheets are resulting in rising sea levels and increased flooding of low-lying areas. Some islands will soon be totally submerged, turning their inhabitants into climate refugees. The solutions to our climate emergency are known and simple: rapidly phase out the use of fossil fuels, make the switch to renewables and halt deforestation. But significant economic interests at the heart of the capitalist system have big investments in coal, oil and gas. Protecting these interests, governments refuse to take more than token measures to halt climate change. The goal of the big corporations is to secure the greatest possible profits for their super-rich owners — regardless of the consequences to the planet and its people.