As COP26 approaches, more and more the urgency of resolving the global environment emergency becomes apparent.
The capitalist system carries in its wake environmental degradation and destruction. The most far-reaching example of this is global warming. The world has to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Such change will require restructuring the world’s energy, manufacturing and transportation systems. Such changes require massive investment and represent a threat to existing capitalist industries, their growth and profits. Capitalism requires profit and economic growth to survive. Capitalists want their profits now. The future has little meaning in a profit-driven society.
Workers today continue to live under the shadow of climate catastrophes, but in a socialist society, workers could enjoy a material abundance without in any way compromising their health of the planet. The many social problems of capitalism increasingly threaten the lives and well-being of workers, it becomes more and more imperative that they recognise the need to organize politically and economically to take control of the economy, abolish class-divided capitalism and administer production through their own democratic bodies.
Socialists can bring many important insights to the questions and concerns raised by technology and the environment. The socialist understanding is that in a profit-motivated capitalist economy, technology will inevitably be developed and applied in an unsafe and environmentally destructive manner. No solution to the current danger can be found by taking the problem out of the social context in which it exists. The primary problem with any technology under capitalism is that it is controlled by a ruling-class minority that manipulates technology to serve its narrow economic interests. The task of the Socialist Party is to consistently emphasise the need to free all technology from the fetters of capitalist productive relations.
Socialists clearly favour technological progress and the general expansion of society's productive forces. Accordingly, socialists do not see the answer in a technological retrogression of capitalist society. For one thing, it is utopian to suggest that society can or will return to a lower level of material development. Moreover, workers' interests directionally lie in furthering, rather than limiting, economic progress. Socialists thus seek to transform society into one based on new social relationships that will allow the worker-majority to become the master of technology, rather than vice versa.
On the other hand, this does not mean that socialists blindly support technology. All technological innovation is not progress, and a socialist society may well decide that the hazards of particular technology renders of no use. Nor should Socialists foster the illusion that the debates on the environment will miraculously disappear with the advent of socialism. Socialist revolution will clearly sound the death knell of the profit-motive and the militarism which have generated the threat to ecology. But socialism is no panacea.
Clearly, the socialist perspective has thus far failed to impress itself on the environmental movement which continues to be dominated by anti-technology currents, apolitical supporters of techno-fixes and capitalist politicians and other liberal reformers. Environmental reforms are not the answer. Capitalism has eroded even those feeble efforts of the past.
To capitalism falls the task of justifying its technological horrors on the basis of picking the lesser evil. To socialism falls the task of turning technology from the horror it currently is to the benefactor of an emancipated working class.
In a socialist society, people would democratically make the decisions on how the resources available to a society are to be used, what energy sources are to be developed, what goods are to be produced, etc. and collectively hold full decision-making power over the use of all technology. With the abolition of the profit motive and the transformation of the means of production from private into social property, such decisions would be made not by a minority to serve its own vested interests, but by the working-class majority, which could rationally assess the overall impact of any decision would have on the general welfare.
If the future is not to be plagued with the floods, droughts and other catastrophes predicted related to global warming, the political and economic system of capitalism must end. The Socialist Party urges fellow workers to abolish capitalism and introduce socialist production for use. Workers must understand their latent economic and potential political power as operators of the industries and services and begin integrating the protest campaigns and resistance movements into one movement with the goal of building a new society with completely different motives for production—human needs and wants instead of profit—and organise their own political party to challenge the political power of the capitalists, express their mandate for change at the ballot box and dismantle the state altogether.
The new society they must aim for must be one in which society itself, not a wealthy few, would own the industries and services, and the workers themselves would control them democratically through their own organisations based in the workplaces. In such a society, the workers themselves would make decisions governing the economy, electing representatives to industrial councils and to a workers’ congress representing all the industries that would administer the economy.
Such a society is what is needed to solve the environmental crisis. By placing the economic decision-making power of the nation in the hands of the workers, by eliminating capitalist control and the profit motive in favour of a system in which workers produce to meet their own needs and wants, the necessary resources and labour could be devoted to halting global warming, employing the renewable resources we now have available and develop new ones, and clean up the damage already done.