Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Future We Want

 Environmental destruction is always a consequence of capitalism. The only sure cure for the climate crisis is the replacement of a society based on accumulation for a profit with one based on production for need. It is the mad drive of capitalists to accumulate capital that is now threatening the very thing on which human life depends - our planet’s health.

In the fierce commercial war where businesses compete with one another, the blind drive of capitalists to keep ahead of each other, the collateral damage is the environment’s eco-systems. People attending COP26 hope the 'great and good' will listen to reason and many wait patiently for the solutions. Many eco-activists trusts that capitalism can control carbon emissions but a socialist understanding of the economic system might help enlighten them a bit more. None of the solutions on offer will save the planet or stop climate catastrophes.

Climate change causes species extinction on a scale hitherto unknown and it is costing lives across the world. malaria, dengue, tick-borne diseases, zoonotic plagues related to Covid are spreading. Changes in climate are resulting in more numerous and intense hurricanes, droughts and floods inflicting increased suffering and misery. The huge devastation and death is being wreaked upon people around the world. The extreme weather is being caused by the capitalist system, largely by burning fossil fuels, which has made storms far more potent and powerful. Sea levels are on the rise, vast regions may be too hot for human habitation and millions of climate refugees can be expected to be on the move. Thus, for good reason, socialists often emphasise a “dystopian” future if capitalism is not replaced, rather than an emancipatory vision of the future that the socialist movement once espoused.

 Capitalism has simply proven incapable of stopping or limiting the detrimental impact of global warming. The engine of capitalism is profits, competition and the need for each business to grow and expand. “Accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets” as Marx said. It is an inherent law of capitalism.

Capitalism is driven by its hunger for profits. Investment decisions are made on the basis of what will make the greatest return in the quickest time. Capitalism is based on the cheapest and fastest exploitation of labour and nature and the endless expansion of exchange value. The business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth and is no longer something we need to read about in scholarly journals. We witness the signs unfolding before our very eyes. 

Lifestyle changes and campaigns against consumerism miss the point. It is not about consuming less for most of us. It is about ensuring capitalism doesn’t consume the planet. The World Socialist Movement is trying to win over environmentalists to revolutionary change. Our civilisation is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people can live in opulence. It is the sufferings of the many, which pay for the luxuries of the few.

A global economy that requires constant expansion of markets and increased production, has to be transformed at its roots. We’ll have to develop an economic structure fundamentally different and more equitable than we have now. Until we start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. Solutions within the system are implausible and so we should change the system itself.

Too often many green-minded activists advocate de-growth and austerity, rejecting technology rather than acknowledging society’s capacity for the abundance that could abolish poverty and offer freedom from drudgery and toil.

 The WSM hold that the potential of prosperity and abundance is the key to mobilising our fellow workers to the socialist cause, not depictions of compulsory rationing. Socialism means the goal is to transform the relations of production, to usher in new relations of consumption. We place the environmentalist shaming about overconsumption into perspective for the deprived slum-dwellers and poverty-stricken around the world where so many endure lives based on under-consumption.

 Nor is socialist abundance about the “abundance” of material goods and mere objects, but the relationships between work and the individual to acquire more free time for social interactions concentrating resources upon healthcare, childcare, and care for the elderly and infirm, making care a primary purpose of society.

We have not come to COP26 in Glasgow to beg world leaders to care. They have ignored us in the past and will ignore us yet again. They have run out of excuses, and we are running out of time. 

We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to working people. We cannot achieve a socialist zero-growth steady-state economy simply by citing the latest climate science statistic and hope that will be sufficient to awaken the need for change. The World  Socialist Movement needs to convince people of a more inspiring and positive future where the basic premise that our universal access to our basic needs (food, energy, housing, healthcare, companionship, leisure) can still be built by organising production integrated with our ecological knowledge.

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