Monday, November 01, 2021

The Poison of Profit


Much of the world is in crisis. It is the capitalist chicken coming home to roost. Millions of acres of forests are on fire. Massive rainfall and flooding menace millions of people. Hurricanes and tropical storms are more frequent and intensive than before thanks to global warming. Then there are the droughts, heating of the planet by carbon emissions.  The profits system has fuelled and spread environmental destruction. Don’t expect the politicians to magically fix things. The ruling class has no solutions. The capitalist class is incapable of long term rational and decent management of society.  As Marx and Engels noted in 1848, class rule societies “end either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

Consumerism is the foundation of the prevailing capitalist socio-economic system. Governments and businesses are completely invested in maintaining high levels of consumption; their profitability and continued existence depend on it. Indeed, far from prioritizing the environment and working to change societal behaviour and deter individuals from spending, huge resources are expended to persuade and encourage consumption; expand market share, develop new products and increase profits for shareholders. Governments talk a concerned environmental talk, but policies are determined by economic growth rather than any concern about CO2 emissions, pollution, or bio-diversity. And most companies, routinely demonstrate that they don’t give a damn about the environment, unless by doing so sales increase and their annual dividends rise. Inherent within capitalism is a set of values that encourage selfishness, greed and complacency. Sufficiency, cooperation and social responsibility, all essential if the environmental crisis is to be met, whilst routinely spouted by politicians and CEOs are often totally absent.  Their insatiable thirst for power and profit while the majority suffer, it has served them very well, which allows their complacency to continue.

Environmentalists cannot wait until governments and businesses judge that going “green” is more profitable or popular than the destructive status quo before they act. Only governments and businesses can make the needed large scale changes (fossil fuels to renewables, electrification of transportation networks,  green production methods etc) only governments and businesses can make the needed large scale changes (fossil fuels to renewables, electrification of transportation networks,  green production methods etc) 

A revolution in consciousness is needed, moving away from selfishness to group responsibility, from apathy to action. Business-as-usual is causing these problems. The corporations are jeopardizing the entire global ecosystem, endangering the future for all children and holding the world's people hostage. Why do we allow such anti-social - even sociopathic - behaviour? How long will it take until the majority finally begins waking up to the fact that it is the capitalist system itself that is the criminal and must be summarily dealt with? Because of the high priority, it places on short-term corporate profit maximisation, capitalism tends to exacerbate the tendency to environmental harm. Under the rules of the capitalist system corporations are compelled to maximise gains and minimise costs, or lose to the competition. They do this by privatising gains and externalising costs to the public domain. So the environment serves as a free sewer to dump corporate wastes. The profit motive pushes other considerations, such as the need to preserve a healthy environment, down the agenda. If we fail to take preventive and precautionary steps civilisation may not outlive capitalism.  We have the technology to move to renewable energy sources. But the capitalist system is detrimental to human inventiveness and innovation. If something is profitable for corporations it happens - even if it is damaging to the vast majority of people, our communities and our natural life-support system. But if something is not seen as profitable - even if it would be beneficial to the majority - then, businesses aren't interested. The deciding factor, the highest priority of capitalism, is short-term profit maximisation for the companies and their shareholders.


Environmental education is important but our crucial question is how to shake our fellow citizens out of their stupor and a more effective campaign to dispel capitalist illusions. We can only be truly free when we, the working-class majority, join together and democratically decide what is produced, how it is produced and how the rewards are to be allocated. Only then can we disempower the parasites who are systematically stealing the wealth labour creates and wrecking the environment we all depend upon. As workers, we need to move beyond pay issues so that we are also concerned with wresting control over technology decisions in order to enhance, not damage, environmental health.

Sooner or later - and the sooner the better - we need to start building a cooperative economic democracy that will fundamentally change this world for the better.

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