Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Monday, January 30, 2017

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017 

21st – 23rd July
Fircroft College, Birmingham

These days, concerns about the environment tend to get pushed into the background by issues like Brexit, Trump’s presidency and ongoing austerity measures. But climate change, pollution and extinctions don’t go away just because the headlines are filled with other events. 2016 was the warmest year on record, with implications for sea levels and habitats; more and more waste is produced for future generations to deal with, and many hundreds of species continue to become extinct every year.
Legislation places some restrictions on the use of dangerous materials, hunting and waste disposal, for example. However, legislators can only work within a system which is structured to safeguard the interests of the wealthy elite, rather than everyone. And of course laws don’t always prevent environmentally-damaging methods from being used if they save or make money. Capitalism turns the natural world into a resource to be exploited for a profit.
The Socialist Party argues that the environment can only be managed responsibly if society as a whole is managed co-operatively and in everyone’s interests. If our industries and services were owned and run in common, then we would be able to produce what we need and want in the most reasonable, sustainable way.
Our weekend of talks and discussions looks at the current state of the environment, and its prospects for the future we make for it.
 Full residential cost (including accommodation and meals Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) is £100. The concessionary rate is £50. Day visitors are welcome, but please book in advance.
 To book a place, send a cheque (payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain) 

to Summer School, Sutton Farm, Aldborough,
Boroughbridge, York, YO51 9ER,
 or book online at
 E-mail enquiries to

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Goodbye to the Future

Climate change and global warming are the most pressing threats facing the world today. Hardly a day goes by without some mention in the media of climate change. We cannot build a green capitalism and even if we could we cannot build it in time. The two degrees increase in global warming signals the point at which ‘dangerous’ climate change is unleashed. Given the amount of devastation by extreme weather events that is already taking place around us, it is sobering to think what ‘dangerous’ climate change might actually look like. Most scientists predict that unless drastic action is taken the speed of global warming is set to accelerate and the consequences will become irreversible. All the available evidence points to a simple conclusion; even if green capitalism is possible, it cannot be adopted in time to stave off increasingly severe eco-system collapses. Paris agreements for implementation tomorrow is too late. Let us pledge ourselves not to a far-off future but system change right now. Technology that previously worked people must be turned into the means of emancipation. The current system of production poses an existential threat. The answer to this terrible threat is to build on the spirit of the revolts against capitalism but to go beyond protest to a social revolution that ends the threat of human and environmental disaster. The future of society and the environment depends upon the global working class wresting control of society and production from those who control it now. If we do not succeed in doing that then the future is going to very bleak indeed. If we do succeed it will mean we have the chance to reorganise production, using the fruits of a scientific understanding to re-build a world whose beauty we can safeguard for future generations. It is not less human intervention we need, but more – intervention that enables human beings consciously to control their own social labour on a world scale, instead of leaving it to the blind workings of the capitalist market. The ceaseless drive for profit leading to the neglect of everything that stands in the way of this has created ecological havoc from one end of the planet to the other.

Too often socialists have been accused for only opposing and not proposing. That has never been a valid criticism. Today’s need is not another centralised global institution, but the deconcentration and decentralisation of decision-making power, and the creation of a pluralistic system of organisations interacting with one another, guided by broad and flexible agreements and understandings. We are not talking about something completely new. Workers since the 19th C have called for the international organisation of the working class and raised the need for collaborative international workers’ struggles to raise wages, reduce hours and alleviate the nationalist-induced rivalries within our class. Socialists have tried to show that workers everywhere have an underlying common interest around which to unite and it is the capitalists who cannot overcome their divisions. An enormous hatred is growing against the many horrors of capitalism. Industrial pollution and ecological damage have provoked resistance in various countries. That hatred has to be turned into dedication to overthrow the entire capitalist system.

The threat to the environment, a direct result of capital’s uncontrolled expansion, can be answered only by the collective action of humanity as a whole. The “Greens” have done vital work in drawing attention to environmental issues. However, they only too often offer the wrong answers to the very questions they ask. For example, technology is not the enemy, but its perversion by the power of capital. The crisis of the ecological situation is a global problem. Its solution lies in the plane of rational and humane, that is to say, wise organisation, both of production itself and care for nature, not just by individuals, enterprises or countries, but by all humanity, linked with a clear awareness of our planetary responsibility for the ecological consequences of civilisation. Politicians and corporations of all hues now declare their commitment to do something about climate change and believe it or not but some of those who run world capitalism actually understand that the environment on which their system depends is in danger of disintegrating within a generation or two. There is no longer much dispute about what is happening.

Governments and businesses have a genuine interest in slowing down climate change, much the same as their predecessors had a genuine interest in eliminating the smog from the slums. But they cannot achieve their goal without slowing down the momentum of capital accumulation, the very basis of their system. The factory chimney stack smoke that were causing bronchitis in working class tenements have now become greenhouses gases threatening to devastate the whole of humanity. It is precisely because this is a global problem that those who support the system find it difficult to deal with. Capitalism is in the process of destroying all our futures. The environmental activists within the Green movement see climate change as the issue that overshadows all others. Everything else has to be subordinated to building a campaign such as has never been seen before in an effort to force governments and firms to take the necessary action. They are raising much-needed awareness of what is happening. But campaigns focused purely on climate change will not be the answer to the problem for deep-seated change is required. Fossil fuel industries are intertwined with every aspect of the system’s functioning, including the lives of those of us living within it. Recognition of this leads many environmental activists to the conclusion that the only solution is for people to change their individual lifestyles as we all seem to be part of the problem. Yet, it is not just a question of people individually being selfish. For the great mass of people there are no other ways to fulfil our basic needs at present.  Recognition of this reality then leads some people who once looked upon individual life-style choices as the solution to now look to the state for action. The counsel us that we can compel the governments of the world’s most polluting states to implement mitigating measures. But these reformist Green activists end up tailoring their demands to what they think can be achieved without too great a disturbance to the present system. So they lobby for countries to sign up to various ‘practical’ agreements such as carbon taxes on the grounds that ‘at least it is a start’. But let’s be honest, corporations that are expert at cheating taxes by use of tax havens, will easily find ways to fiddle their emissions by carbon trading.

The capitalist system depends for its existence on continued expansion and accumulation, and any serious and effective solution to climate change is going to open enormous fissures within the system. Are we to imagine the ruling class will sacrifice their interests for the rest of us? There have been previous instances of civilisations collapsing due to ecological devastation as did the Maya civilization. Capitalists and states will react to the need to do something about global warming by price and tax measures that will inevitably hit the living standards of the poor.

The only sure protection against climate change is the replacement of a society based on accumulation for profit with one based on production for need. There is but one way to reverse climate change. That is through challenging and ending capitalism as a whole.

Act Today to Save Tomorrow
A World to Win, a Planet to Save

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

No More Empty Promises

“Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!” - Marx

Capitalism has now become a threat to life on Earth. The system’s need for infinite growth and the finite resources of Earth stand in contradiction to each other. Successful capitalism means growth which means that on the one hand nature is treated as a resource to be exploited ruthlessly, and on the other, toxic waste is dumped. The capitalist class appoint economists, rather than environmental scientists to advise them on the ecological crisis. What these economists do not appear to realise is that, while starting from the assumption that the ecological crisis can be solved within the capitalist system, their calculations, which show the required costs would be unsustainable, prove the opposite, namely that this environmental  crisis cannot be solved within capitalist relations of production. It is clear that the demands of the capitalist system, namely profits via cheap energy are being followed in preference to any strategy which could ensure the long term survival of life on the planet, the exact opposite of what rationality should dictate. The capitalist system requires continuous accumulation of capital. If capitals do not accumulate they will collapse, and there is therefore a general struggle for accumulation of capital, which means growth and expansion of markets, throughout the entire system. This drive for accumulation is derived from the internal functioning of the system and cannot be avoided. Capitalism has to “expand or die”, which is why all countries measure their success in terms of economic growth. The forces propelling this drive come from the workings of the capitalist system itself, not from the immorality of the capitalist class. Consequently the attempts of environmentalists to persuade the capitalist class to “wake up” and to adopt a zero growth economy, reflect a failure to understand capitalism, and are therefore futile.

Capitalism is a productive system which produces for profit not for human needs. Only when the ecological problems start to affect profits will capitalists start to treat them seriously. This will occur when the ecological reserves have been used up and by then it will be too late to do anything about it. Regarding climate change, the problem isn’t “industrial civilization” as such. It is its particular form known as capitalism, which stands in an inherently incompatable to livable ecology. The capitalist system at its root is all about the growth, accumulation and is exploitation-addicted world system, with its anarchic and atomized decision-making, incapable of democratically planning for the common good. Capitalism is inseparable from the compulsion to indiscriminate growth that drives consumerism which is inimical to collective values and insensitive to the environment. As a social system based on private ownership of production it can’t support the kind of planning that could avert environmental catastrophe. The owners of capital are fragmented and compelled by competition to look after their own interests first, and any serious planning would have to override property rights — an action that would be opposed by vested interests.

Ecological harmony and a sustainable environment are essential to the continued existence of humanity. Humanity is the only species that has developed the ability to alter its environment. Under capitalism, these alterations have been at once beneficial and harmful. While human beings marvel at the latest technological innovations and feats of engineering, we also lay waste to whole sections of the earth. In the name of capitalism and the drive for the highest possible profits, we have threatened the very ecological balance that created us. The Socialist Party believes in using all the technology and knowledge available to us to undo as much of the damage humanity has done to the planet we all share, in addition to improving on and creating new ways to rebuild our natural world. Once we can eliminate the profit motive, the door is open to rational use of natural resources for the first time in human history. How we make use of such resources will naturally be informed by our understanding that reason governs the outcome and not quarterly earnings returns to the boards of corporations. Naomi Klein is correct when she writes “We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets”

The really “inconvenient truth” (as one of the Socialist Party’s pamphlets on the environment is titled) is that the problem is capitalism, itself.  It is not merely the Friedman free-market vulture capitalism but also the he Keynsian “regulated” and “welfare state” capitalism. Any form of capitalism is the recipe for disaster and catastrophe, for the profit system lays at the base of all the “Doomsday” scenarios. Understanding and going beyond capitalism is essential for averting the ecological apocalypse that we are heading towards. The disharmony with nature and all the other social evils and ills of so-called modern-day society are intimately interwoven and interrelated with the capitalist economic system. All our struggles for justice around the world—for equality, the right to food, economic fairness, human rights, decent work, environmental protection and more – are interconnected and all are tied up. The real problem we face are not the important but nevertheless innumerable superficial matters but the vital radical reconstruction of society itself. We need to replace capitalism and repair the world with socialism. Nothing less than the transformation of our society, our economy, and our world will suffice to solve the climate crisis. All around the world we are seeing the effects of the climate crisis. But all around the world we are seeing an unprecedented movement of people calling for urgent and concrete action to protect people and our planet. It's good to see the environmental movement catching up with the idea that truly addressing climate change will real attention to the root causes of the crisis - capitalism. We must send a clear message that our demand is for people power. We have to be much more real, much bolder, and much more determined to make it happen. It is all about people, and our capacity as humanity to secure safe and dignified lives for all with solutions based in a vision of the world that recognizes the need to live in harmony with nature, and to guarantee the fulfillment of all human needs. The balance of power is changing across the world, because people across the world are prepared to fight to protect their homes, their right to food, and their right to a decent job.

The World Socialist Movement acts as a catalyst for those who possess this shared vision for a better future. We need a broad deep movement of solidarity and action, with electoral commitment but also a focus on the effective exercise of popular power in other ways. Electoral efforts will emerge from wider forms of popular organizing as the outgrowth of people power.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Complex problems have simple solution

Governments agree that it is an imminent environmental crisis yet they are unwilling to act in an effective manner that shows that they have taken the facts on board. Inaction is attractive when polluters do not care about the impacted and refuse to accept the fact that ultimately everyone on planet Earth is vulnerable. Politicians commit large amounts of money climate research yet pays scant attention to its science. Negotiations to tackle climate change have remained largely political lip-service. There is no longer any talk of binding commitment to emissions reduction by nations and instead proposals for vague voluntary self-monitoring action. The further away the target dates for measures are, the easier it is for political leaders to agree to such plans. The nearer the implementation of these dates is, the less enthusiastic support for them. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that the world decarbonises urgently. No one can predict the outcome of the December Paris climate summit, but few expect the measures it may endorse to be tough enough to keep future increases in global temperatures below two degrees Celsius, the maximum amount most scientists believe the planet can absorb without incurring climate disasters far beyond anything seen to date. We cannot allow politicians to intentionally refuse to act now and shift responsibility for action to generations yet unborn. No. We must not allow that.

The World Bank and the International Energy Agency as well as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have acknowledged that substantial percentage of known reserves of fossil fuels must not be burned, that is, they must be left underground if catastrophic temperature increase is to be avoided. This reality now makes it urgent for nations to close their fossil shops and for corporations to shift their attention to clean energy and other forms of production. A large-scale wind, water and solar energy system can reliably supply the world’s needs, significantly benefitting climate, air quality, water quality, ecology and energy security. Is that what we see? No. The obstacles are political, not technical. Rather than work on urgent transition from fossil fuels, nations and corporations are embarking on more extreme and reckless modes of exploration and extraction of fossil fuels, including fracking and deep seas drilling. Rather than shifting to safer and cleaner energy forms, many countries, including many on the African continent, are celebrating new oil and gas finds. They are delirious with joy and getting set to enjoy the pyrrhic bounties that the sector promises. Without the new finds, it was already estimated that the value of fossils to be left underground topped 22 trillion dollars. Those fuels -- oil, natural gas, and coal -- will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere. Not surprisingly, the oil states and those energy corporations continue to dream of a future in which they will play a dominant role. The fact that such fossils to be left underground are often referred to as stranded resources suggests that corporations and governments will don the garb of saviour to rescue the resources from being stranded!

False solutions such as agro-fuels (ethanol) and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) have already had serious negative impacts on our peoples. Geo-engineering experiments have failed spectacularly, and even if they were to succeed, all scenarios reviewed by scientists and by the ETC (Erosion, Technology and Concentration) Group show that Africa would suffer severe negative impacts from such moves. As one highly regarded physicist told a recent meeting, “geo-engineering experiments have shown that it is totally useless.” It is a silver bullet that permits polluters to keep polluting and cannot deliver on its promise to suck released carbon from the atmosphere. The climate crisis can be tackled by working with nature and not against it. We have to halt activities that have known negative impacts, including dependence on industrial agriculture and its litany of artificial and chemical inputs. We have to say yes to life and no to mining. It may be inconveniencing, but the pleasures and so-called easy life of today cannot justify a knowing condemnation of the planet and peoples to unacceptable future. We must all stand up, speak and act against climate crimes.

Individual mass movements must all coalesce in the global space to demand the urgent change of this present mode of production and halt the intentional crimes to the environment.  “The cost of doing business.” That’s what corporations call it then they claim a deduction from their taxes for the damage they’ve done to people and the planet. It’s a cost of doing business all right; a cost to us, of doing business with them the way we currently do it, and it’s just one of the reasons so many people are calling for a whole new system.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon kept spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days while the media was warned off and the company told the public lies. BP was been found guilty of gross negligence and misconduct. They’ve been slapped with $42 billion in fines and damages. But the BP not only threatening politicians they’ll pull out of the Gulf entirely if their fines aren’t reduced, they’re claiming a lot of that money back, thanks to a tax loophole that will enable BP to claim as much as 80 percent of the damages they've paid out so far as an ordinary business expense.

It’s not just BP either. Car makers, chemical companies, mine owners and those notorious banksters routinely deduct part of their court ordered payouts from their taxes. Which means that means we the people who sustain the damage, are also the ones subsidizing the damages. Big Business has too much power and that’s dangerous for people and the planet. That is why some of us are seeking an alternative system: not just renewable energy, not nationalization of energy companies but an entirely new social and economic system. Some in the green movement offer a utopia of small is beautiful with local businesses and co-ops. It is utopian because capitalism grows anew out of all commodity production; a utopia of small businesses can only be the prelude to the return of competitive cut-throat capitalism.

There’s a revolution going on right now. Don’t take the detours and don’t accept the delays. Right now, we live in terrible times. Horrific wars in the Middle East seem endless, with atrocities committed by all the participants. The future of our planet is in doubt because of the destructive, wasteful and polluting logic of capitalism. In most societies, sexism, racism and xenophobia are widespread, and prospects for many cannot but be worrying and depressing. The Socialist Party does not believe we are born racist or sexist – we are made so by the social conditions we live in. We are confident in our ability to persuade the majority.

The Socialist Party is are not in the business of falsifying reality. We are not a religious sect that seeks to isolate its members from reality. There are no capitalist solutions to climate change. We reject the idea that national interest can be fully defeated under capitalism. On the contrary, we argue that the system relies on divide and rule, that commercial rivalries are the natural by-products of the prevailing economic order. No amount of carbon taxation or emission capping agreements will succeed. A wind, water and solar energy plan gives the world a new, clean, efficient energy system rather than an old, dirty, inefficient one. Is it feasible to transform the world’s energy systems? Could it be accomplished in a short time? Only through socialism is the answer. We are revolutionaries not reformists. We are for revolutionary change as the only way to combat climate change. Capitalism is no friend of the Earth; its need for economic expansion makes it the enemy of the people.

Friday, April 24, 2015


Apologies for the lifestyle reformism offered at the end as some sort of remedy but a good video otherwise. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A return to nature

“Many people look at these expansive views and call them beautiful,” says Alan Watson Featherstone, looking out over the remote hillsides north of Loch Ness. “But what we’ve really got is a barren landscape that is almost entirely devoid of native woodlands and predators. What we’ve done here, and across much of rural Britain, is to allow herbivores [deer, sheep and cattle] to run wild, destroying flora and fauna,” he says. “At the same time, we’ve hunted all their natural predators to extinction.” He goes on to say “By eliminating our native forests and replacing them with non-native and fast-growing pines, we have stripped out the bottom layers of the eco-system. In places the rampant deer population and forestry has shaved the earth, so we have exposed peat hags of ancient tree stumps. These are an open sore on our landscape.”

 Featherstone is a leading advocate of rewilding – a strand of the conservation movement with ambitious plans to revive the biodiversity of rural Britain by reintroducing native species. He wants to see the return of birch, oak, Scots pine and aspen across the Highlands but his plans don’t end with flora. If the rewilders have their way, wild boar, lynx and even wolves could soon be restored to sylvan Britain, where they once roamed more than 1,000 years ago. But Featherstone insists the reintroduction of natives species is not about “returning to a particular time or age in natural history”.

He adds: “What we are doing, by planting trees and bringing the top predators back, is kickstarting nature’s evolution in circumstances where she can no longer do it on her own.”

It may well mean an end to those artificial grouse and deer shooting estates to permit some real wildlife which is not 'managed' for profit. We may have a few whingeing lairds and landowners but that is nothing new.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Socialism – The Resource of Hope

'The greatest cause of poverty is hover-population,' remarked Harlow.
'Yes,' said old Joe Philpot. 'If a boss wants two men, twenty goes after the job: ther's too many people and not enough work.'
'Over-population!' cried Owen, 'when there's thousands of acres of uncultivated land in England without a house or human being to be seen. Is over-population the cause of poverty in France? Is over-population the cause of poverty in Ireland? Within the last fifty years the population of Ireland has been reduced by more than half. Four millions of people have been exterminated by famine or got rid of by emigration, but they haven't got rid of poverty. P'raps you think that half the people in this country ought to be exterminated as well.'
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell

In ‘Imagine’ Lennon was asking us to imagine a place where things that divide people (religion, possessions, etc.) did not exist. The thing that set us apart is class. He felt that would be a much better place. Lennon said this song is "virtually the Communist Manifesto." Lennon added: "even though I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement." Take a moment to think about living in a world as imagined by John Lennon in this song, take away material possessions (wealth, status, greed, envy); religion (holy wars, terrorism, religious persecution); countries (war, tyranny, oppression.) And to all those who speak about socialism never ever working. Think of this: early man for thousands of years lived in a society based upon communism. The community was needed to survive. The community or tribe or clan or herd was all that mattered. Share and all survive. That is communism. We as humans have the ability to shape the world into whatever we want.

The Economic Research Service estimates that over 130 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten per year at the retail and consumer levels in the United States, equating to over 1,200 calories per day per man, woman, and child.  On average, this suggests that as a nation almost one-third of the edible food that could meet our caloric needs goes uneaten. Globally, in developed countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, almost 40 percent of the food is wasted after the dinner table.  In contrast, in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and South America, almost 40 percent of the food is lost before the dinner table, owing to pests and supply chain issues, including inadequate storage, transportation, and marketing challenges.

The food waste in landfills decomposes, emitting carbon dioxide, methane, other gases, water vapor, and leachates, thus exacerbating our ecological footprint.  Additionally, consider the land, water, fertilizer, labor, energy, and other inputs that went into producing that food, which is now wasted. Indeed, globally food waste/food loss is contributing to the estimated loss of one quadrillion liters of water per year—enough to fill Lake Erie approximately eight times over.

Studies point to the need to double food production to feed the nine plus billion people predicted to populate planet Earth by 2050.  Imagine the possibility:  By eliminating or significantly reducing food waste and food loss, humanity could be closer to achieving food and nutrition security without having to bring in significantly more arable land, energy, water, labor, and other inputs needed to double food production. Mitigating food waste and food loss globally is the “low hanging” fruit in our toolkit to ensure the food and nutritional security of humanity, while husbanding our natural resources such as water and land, and minimizing our ecological footprint.

Americans have steadily moved from farms to cities. The country was 95 percent rural in 1900. Today, 81 percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas. It is predicted that 70% of the entire world will be urban by 2050. For most of human history, food was produced within walking distance of where it was consumed—a way of life in which people maintained a direct connection with the land and their food. Urbanization and the industrialization of food production have rendered this a distant memory for most of us.

Too many households abound in areas that have little or no access to healthy fruits and vegetables. Most of our food is grown from genetically modified and hybrid seeds, sprayed with chemicals and shipped to us from around the world. Quality food is the most important part of being healthy and we are not getting it. Fast food is killing us. We’re eating 31 percent more packaged and processed food than fresh fruits and vegetables. We are consuming more packaged food per person than people in nearly any other country. And food insecurity is growing. Americans spend considerably more on healthcare than any other country. Yet, too many of our children are unhealthy. Our elderly are sicker for longer periods of time.

How will we feed, clothe, shelter, and educate these steadily swelling urban populations? Up until now, too much of the discussion surrounding global warming and the climate crisis has been cloaked in gloom and doom. The fact is, we have the power to reverse, not just mitigate, global warming. We can avert the impending climate catastrophe, mass starvation, resource depletion and endless wars. And while we’re at it, we can also restore soil fertility, eliminate poverty and hunger. We need a global grassroots movement. Our immediate task therefore is to spread this profound message of hope. What is important is that we identify the different messages that will motivate different segments of the population, and then build upon our shared concerns. Through a diversity of messages and campaigns we can build the largest grassroots coalition in history—for our survival, and the survival of the future generations.

Humanity has a shared history and culture, came into being based on some very specific factors. Principle among these was/is a population having access to food and natural resources. Throughout history, population centres formed in the most fertile places – river deltas (Nile, Amazon, Ganges) and those places where plentiful rainfall allowed cropping (Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, SE Asia, where rain-fed agriculture is a viable way to produce food. If we look at a world population distribution map, there is a very strong correlation between rainfall and where people live. The density in South East Asia is incredible, something only possible by historical high rainfall and fertile land. Also, in India, Pakistan and China, this rainfall fed agriculture is supplemented vastly by annual glacier melts that feed their inland river systems. Agriculture is the foundation of life, as we know it. It is what led to our contemporary human societies. “There is no culture without agriculture.” Civilization began when humans settled in one place and started growing crops. We cannot live without a system that grows our food. We cannot flourish without healthy food. Most experts agree that despite advances in modern medicine (or perhaps in part because of them), as a population, we face a serious health crisis. This is particularly apparent in western nations, where there is plenty of food—but much of that “food” is highly processed, nutrient-deficient junk food. Yet the food produced by our modern industrial agriculture system debilitates, rather than enhances, our health.

Why does it matter if the temperature changes? Hotter earth means more energy, which means more frequent violent storms. The NAOO in the US believes that once a century storms will occur every two-three years with 1.5-2 degrees warming. Storms like that wipe out crops, destroy homes, ruin infrastructure, in places where the majority of human beings live. It matters because if the temperature changes, the location and degree of rainfall will change as well, because of changed ocean and atmospheric conditions. 70% of African food is produced by farmers at or close to subsistence level and in SE Asia the level is around 50%, any substantial change in yields will impact those populations hugely. By definition, subsistence farming produces no or small surpluses. We live in a hungry world already. If yields drop too far, literally billions of people will face chronic food shortages. Who cares if the globe warms up? Well, all those hungry people will. Drought, storms and changing rainfall patterns will combine to drastically reduce crop yields. Massive storms will destroy homes and infrastructure. What will hundreds of millions of hungry, homeless people do? What would you do, if your home was repeatedly blown away, and you couldn’t feed your family? You’d find somewhere else to go, just as sure as they will. It’s demonstrably clear that most Australians don’t like boat people. Imagine if millions of starving boat people made their way to Australia?

The hour is late. We are facing the life or death challenge of our lives. Each and every one of us must join the world socialist movement. Environmentalists have argued that waiting for "the revolution" in order to try to save species from extinction, or prevent the planet from boiling over because of climate change, is denying the urgency of environmental problems. They have argued that, given the urgency of environmental problems, we have to use whatever mechanisms are available to us, from high-tech geo-engineering solutions to market mechanisms, to rich philanthropists. Critics of many environmentalists, however, accuse some in the environmentalist movement of willing to accept compromises with elites in ways that ultimately compromise and undermine the environmental cause. Socialists draw attention to the common cause the myriad of different ecological problems share and point to the common enemy, capitalism. Socialists grasp the conclusion that many greens are reluctant to accept, society will have to make massive changes to the economic system, and that the reforms being offered up are not deep enough to stabilise the climate change much less reverse the consequences of global warming. The reformists’ compromises and concessions with capitalism is like driving towards the edge of a high cliff. It doesn’t matter if we roar at it at 150kmh or trickle towards it at 1kmh. Once we reach that tipping point, where global warming is self-reinforcing, we’re not going to stop until we hit the bottom.

A global poll of more than 6.5million people has placed climate change at the very bottom of a long list of priorities, with the finding being consistent across both genders, almost all age ranges, all education levels and in most regions of the world. Across the whole of Africa and Asia climate change rated last, but Europe, Oceania and the Americas promoted the issue to around half way up the table. In the US it ranked 10th, whilst in the UK it was placed 9th. Participants are offered a choice of sixteen policy issues, which also include “a good education”, “Political freedoms”, “Protecting forests, rivers and oceans”, and “Equality between men and women”. We are failing to communicate the urgency and the seriousness of the threat to the environment and the planet.

Many socialists are willing to concede that a key problem is failure to point to solutions. We tend to point to problems - endlessly - as if that will somehow automatically generate action.  In the city of the future we will no longer jump in our cars, burn fossil fuels to go and buy “food” at giant suburban shopping malls that is grown on farms far away. Instead, we will walk to a farm or garden in our neighborhoods to get fresh, nutritious food harvested by urban growers that we know personally. We will no longer pass empty blighted waste-ground. We will eat, work and play close to home, in beautiful spaces. Urban agriculture empowers people with food self-sufficiency, maintains stewardship over the environment and builds a sense of community. And all of it can be done with just a hoe, a rake and a spade. Urban agriculture and the development of local food systems is a way to bring city dwellers closer to their farmers and provide an abundance of natural, nutritious food. In the city of the future, wholesome food will be a right for all, not just a privilege for the few. Urban agriculture transforms both people and places. Growing food in urban areas will grow remarkable cities. The Chicago city planner, Daniel Burnham, famously said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood”. We have no other choice. We must become advocates and campaigners for socialism.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Eco-socialism, another grand concept with an adjective.

Marx summed up radical green politics when in Capital III he noted:
“From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the private property of one man in other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth, they are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations, as boni patres familias” [good heads of the household]”

Marx took Feuerbach’s notion of fetishism to describe such radical humanism. Feuerbach famously argued that human beings invent gods and goddesses, forget they have invented them and bow down to worship their own creations. Marx reminds us that human beings, through social action, create the economic system; we then forget that the economy is a human construct and worship it as if it were a god. Ecological sanity can only come when we recognise that the present economic system of capitalism is a social construct that must be overthrown. In Chapter One of Capital is the idea of use value as opposed to exchange value. A capitalist economy is focused on exchange values - we could increase use value by making goods that last longer, by extending the library principle to all kinds of goods. Even in a market-based society, car pools exist. Real prosperity means that we have access to useful things; it is quite different from wasteful increases in Gross National Product (GNP). Under capitalism resources that are free - from land to ideas - are essentially stolen, fenced in and sold back to us. The enclosure and commodification of labour is the most important form of enclosure. This increases exchange value (GNP) but makes us poorer. Some of Marx’s earliest political writings examined the imposition of laws that prevented peasants from gathering fallen wood in German forests. The open source principle of free access and creativity is an example of how enclosure can and should be fought. A society controlled by the few must be replaced by one that works for all. We must overcome a society based on blind accumulation.

The Green Party and many of its supporters do not recognise that they require a struggle against the capitalist system. Signaling the challenge to the old politics the Green Party has been modestly successful contesting elections. It's true that the environment movement has brought a new vocabulary and "discourse" into political life. The Greens vote is the result of growing disillusion with Labour and a steady growth in concern about environmental issues. The Greens presented themselves as a party to the left of Labour (which is not too difficult). But ‘green socialism’ is all about taking a stand against ‘green capitalism.’ In the process, many of the traditional socialist themes – e.g., distribution, power and property, planning and democracy – are updated and linked up with the new issues. Those involved in the Green Party are clearly sincere in their opposition to various versions of capitalism and their desire for a better world, but they seem to have no real conception of what "socialism" might mean. The working class, exploitation, the labour movement, do not figure at all. Neither does collective ownership. Their "socialism" is more a catchphrase for good causes in general than a vision of the democratic transformation of society, by workers, from below. While the Green Party may hold some good socialist members, and present some reforms, it is not a party of socialism and in the end will degenerate into a party that offers bike-lanes and budget cuts. Socialists must challenge green politics showing how ecological issues are of top relevance to the quality of life of working people.

The “green economy” focuses on commodification and the market. Yet the market takes too long to resolve problems, and the big corporations behind fossil fuels want to get a foothold in “green energy” at the same time as keeping their fixed capital. Their idea of a “green economy” favours technological fixes based on private property, for example large-scale projects such as huge offshore wind parks, and transcontinental super-grids for long-distance energy exports from Sahara desert solar facilities. Yet it is impossible to meet the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and catapulting the entire economy from the 150-year old age of coal and oil into the future of solar and wind without provoking crises. It is necessary to transform the mode of production and living so it is predictable that when some of the old branches of industry and their capital come under attack, it will in turn trigger resistance. Conversion of polluting and resource-intensive capital stock to environmentally benign alternatives? Impose green taxes? Just how viable will they be to the likes of the Koch brothers? Dreams of a "steady state" capitalism beloved of an ecological economist like Herman Daly and environmentalists like Lester Brown and the authors of Sharing the World are simply that — dreams. They accept that the market system is untouchable and look for salvation in changing the behaviour of individual consumers and adoption of energy-saving technology. However, since capitalism is addicted to expansion, and devotes vast resources to this effort, there's no reason at all to expect that gains in resource efficiency will go into reduced usage of resources and not into increased throughput and growth rates. The principle that "the polluter pays" will be a principle more honoured in the breach than the observance. But modern corporations have corporate lawyers who find loopholes and who appeal the penalties.

The alternative to socialism is literally destruction. As socialists we are aware of how very far down the road to making the planet uninhabitable for humans capitalism is, and how many humans have already suffered and are already suffering from the damage the profit system has done to our planet. We possibly have one more generation before it is too late. There won’t be any socialists, there won’t be any socialism, when nobody can breathe. Climate change is real and it’s as urgent as it gets that we make radical changes if we want a future on this planet. The working class have to continue to see ourselves as revolutionary because we are the part of humanity most indispensable for our survival. The Socialist Party viewpoint simply means that, until the working majority sets the rules of the political and economic game, any gains in such battles are provisional and vulnerable to co-option and reversal.

The environmental crisis tends to manifest itself either in the form of local outrages (motorway proposals, polluted rivers) or vast global problems (hole in the ozone layer, global warming, fishery depletion, global deforestation), and it's not surprising that environmental activists overwhelmingly get tugged in one of two directions and away from any revolutionary perspective.

The first is towards case-by-case guerilla warfare against specific environmental outrages, which the crisis will supply to the movement as if on a conveyor belt running at ever greater speed. The second is toward the organisations "that have the power to do something" — government ministries, United Nations agencies or even and increasingly, the “greener” corporations, themselves. What is at stake in this discussion is not whether governments can't be induced to change their mind on this or that dam or their objection to the very idea of a carbon tax, but whether any capitalist government, representing the "common affairs of the bourgeoisie", can subordinate the overall interests of capital to those of the environment for any length of time. Once that impossibility is truly grasped then environmentalists have no choice but seriously to measure their present ideas against the basic concepts of socialist theory and politics. Membership of a Green party, sometimes involving serious commitment to campaigns, but almost always involving confusion about goals and vulnerable to drowning in parliamentary tomfoolery of reformism. The slogan "Think globally, act locally" has the direct implication that each and every local initiative in recycling, economising on water and energy use and cutting waste can, summed together, make a critical difference. Decades of thinking globally and acting locally, while yielding a host of small victories, has not been able to reverse any major trend in environmental degradation. That's because it offers no pathway from the local to the global, no feasible strategy for making local action begin to count globally. This is all the more true because the local is hardly ever purely local, but linked to national and international webs of production, trade and investment shaped by the national and international division of labour. The "local" is forged by an increasingly global capitalism, which protects its interests through national and international state and semi-state bodies.

The concerned environmentalist has a choice between an ecological version of socialism or capitalism. We can reform it or replace it with something more democratic. The central issue is that of working class political consciousness, of imparting the true picture of a capitalism whose insatiable hunger for profit is not only devouring the working and living conditions of hundreds of millions of working people but the underpinnings of life itself. The future of our planet depends on building a livable environment  and a socialist movement powerful enough to displace capitalism.

‘Nothing should be made by man’s labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers…Worthy work carries with it the hope of pleasure in rest, the hope of the pleasure in our using what it makes, and the hope of pleasure in our daily creative skill. All other work but this is worthless; it is slaves’ work — mere toiling to live, that we may live to toil.’ William Morris

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hunger? What's the real problem?


Whereas progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, hunger has been slowly but steadily on the rise for the past decade, FAO said. The number of hungry people increased between 1995-97 and 2004-06 in all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. But even in this region, gains in hunger reduction have been reversed as a result of high food prices and the global economic downturn that started in 2008.

Today, one in nine people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life, making hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide -- greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The greatest scandal of our age is the fact that just under 1 billion people on the planet go to bed hungry every night. This is despite the fact that we produce more than enough to feed every single person in the world.

Why is there hunger? The obvious answer to this question is that there must be a lack of food. It’s nothing to do with a lack of food. Can the world feed itself? The answer is: “Yes”. The Great Bengal Famine of 1943 claimed 1.5 million lives. Yet food production was only marginally below the previous year, and in fact higher than other years which had not seen famine. The Ethiopian famines of 1972-74 also saw only single-digit declines in food production, too small to account for the 50-200,000 deaths. In the 1974 Bangladesh famine, food availability actually hit a four-year per capita high. In the Sahelian famine which peaked in 1973, drought did lead to significant declines in food availability. During the food crisis in 2008 there was enough food for everyone in the world to have 2,700 kilocalories. Yet a silent tsunami threw more than 115 million into abject hunger. Food being exported from famine-stricken areas may be a ‘natural’ characteristic of the market which respects the rights of private poverty and commerce rather than needs.

 The opening lines of  Amartya Sen’s hugely influential 1981 essay on poverty and famines:
“Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there not being enough food to eat.”

The fact there’s enough food to feed everyone has been acknowledged by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which statedclearly that:
“There is sufficient capacity in the world to produce enough food to feed everyone adequately; nevertheless, in spite of progress made over the last two decades, 805 million people still suffer from chronic hunger.”

There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life. By 2030, with population growth continuing to decline and agricultural output predicted to rise, the UN forecasts enough food will be grown worldwide, despite a global estimated population of 8.3 billion, to give everyone 3050 kilocalories per day. In the United States, enough food is produced for everyone to eat eight full plates of food per day—yet almost 40 million Americans struggle to put food on the table and are classified as “food insecure.”

Solving World Hunger is not rocket science. We have the tools, and the technology to put an end to hunger. There is enough food to go around. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day  according to the FAO in  2002.  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food. So what needs to change? Discussions of world hunger almost invariably assume that food production is and will continue to be commodity production, whilst simultaneously assuming that food is produced for use. But whatever climate change has to throw at us, there is always a gap between what is possible and what is possible in capitalism. All other things held equal, declining crop yields and loss of arable land can be expected to increase world hunger. But all other things need not be held equal. The social relations through which our natural resources are organised are not themselves laws of nature: they are subject to change. Essentially control over resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that typically ends up in the hands of a minority, who live well, while those at the bottom barely survive, if they do.

Again a very basic question people ask is “Does population growth explain food shortages?” and again many will instinctively answer “Yes”. It seems commonsense that more people in the worls must mean more resource use, therefore fewer resources to go around for everyone. It is a false logic that has led to some highly unsavory arguments and policy decisions. By arguing that population growth is the main cause of mass starvation and environmental ruin we play into the hands of ruling elites who want to blame the victims. One such consequence is that helping the poor not only hurts them, but also threatens to drag the well-fed down to their subsistence level. Under this credo, no sharing is permitted, as it will only generalise starvation to the entire population because there is only so much to go around. The more sophisticated of the Malthusians talk of the carrying capacity of the planet. The number of humans a local or global environment can support depends not on numbers but on the level of economic development and the social relations of that society. Humans can both grow more food and, given the opportunity, consciously self-limit our reproduction based on rational economic and social considerations. The overpopulation argument obscures the more immediate causes of suffering under capitalism. How many people the Earth can support depends primarily on the level of productivity of the existing population and the social relations within which they are embedded. “Carrying-capacity” is as much socially as it is materially determined from the given level of productive development, not some arbitrary measure of what constitutes “too many” people. Poverty and hunger are the  products of social relations, not overpopulation. At no point in the last thirty years, as hunger has increased, has world population growth exceeded growth in food production.

The pioneer of the environmental movement, Rachel Carson, author of the ground-breaking Silent Spring in the 60s, was clear that the primary blame for destruction of the natural world lay with the “gods of profit and production” as the world lived “in an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at any cost is seldom challenged.” Capitalism is a system predicated on continual expansion with an ever-increasing throughput of energy and resources. For those corporations promoting their green credentials that do act to reduce their energy or resource use, the purpose is not to decrease their impact on the environment, however much money they spend touting their ecological awareness. Rather, the objective is to lower production costs so as to maximise profit in order to reinvest in expansion of production to corner market share, thereby negating the original reduction. Contrary to all claims of capitalist efficiency, the amount of senseless waste and pollution under capitalism is enormous. This includes not only the toxic byproducts of the production process that are routinely dumped into the surrounding environment, but also the production and distribution of useless products, the creation of mounting piles of garbage as a result of planned obsolescence and single-use products.the preponderance of inefficient transportation systems based on cars rather than effective public transportation, and, of course, all the wasted labour and materials spent on the military.

It should be clear from all of the above that it isn’t population growth that is causing food scarcity or is primarily responsible for the many accelerating global environmental crises. Even if population growth were to end today, worsening rates of starvation, the growth of slums, and ecosystem collapse would continue more or less unabated. Food production continues to outstrip population growth, and therefore cannot be considered the cause of hunger. There are very serious planetary problems of soil erosion, overfishing, deforestation, and waste disposal, to name only a few, which are putting pressure on the sustainability of food production over the long haul. However, these are all inextricably bound to questions of power and a system run in the interest of a small minority where profit continually outweighs issues of hunger, waste, energy use, or environmental destruction. Concentrating on population confuses symptoms with causes while simultaneously validating apologists for the system. Population growth arguments fit in with the ideological needs of the system rather than challenging them and is the primary reason that they receive so much publicity. It is completely acceptable to capitalism to place the blame for hunger and ecological crises on the number of people rather than on capitalism.

A central concept of capitalism is the idea that there isn’t enough to go around. There isn’t enough food, there aren’t enough jobs, there isn’t enough houses, or schools or hospitals.  “There isn’t enough…” really means “It isn’t profitable…”  The problem is capitalism. The motivation for big business to produce food is profit, not to provide for people. Despite the enormous advances in technology and knowledge, this system cannot provide the most basic necessities for the world’s population. It is not a question of there being too many people or not enough food available. Food production and distribution is not planned but is at the behest of the anarchy of the market, controlled by a handful of multi-national companies. Capitalism is unable to feed the world. The future under capitalism – one of increasing damage to the environment and austerity – will mean this terrible situation gets worse. Socialism is the only solution to stopping and reversing climate change. The world's population is larger than ever before - but so is world food production. Billions of people regularly struggle to get enough to eat but the problem isn't a lack of produce or a rising population. It is a system driven by profit. Despite all the pessimism of mainstream environmentalists, the problem we really face is that we have allowed a system to develop where there is hunger amidst plenty. What we need is to take control of the food system. This will enable us to deal with the wasteful system. Socialists look forward to a world of plenty built on the greatest gift of nature, that of human labour. Real change will only come when the power of those running the system for the purpose of profit is challenged.

Advances in nutrition and agricultural science could allow us to produce abundant, healthy, safe, and tasty food for everyone. Humanity could produce an enormous variety of foods, both to guarantee food security against pests, disease, and climate change through agricultural diversity, but also to keep meals interesting. The infrastructure exists to develop a vast network of public restaurants serving affordable, delicious and interesting food. Home cooking and eating could be transformed into relaxing social activities, not the compulsory drudgery it is for billions today. In short, the knowledge, technology, and collective potential to completely transform the way the world eats exists now. What doesn’t exist is a social structure that allows for a rational and balanced approach to food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption. But virtually all the proposals out there are limited to tinkering with the existing system or appealing to the good will and reason of the rich and powerful. This is utopian. In a system driven by and defined by commodity production and money, what matters to the capitalists is not food quality or human health, but maximising profits. The solution to this is not to be found in blaming individuals for their “individual choices,” or in changing this or that aspect of the status quo. The solution can only come from abolishing the dysfunctional system of capitalism itself.

At the Rome International Conference on Nutrition – organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) 90 ministers and hundreds of government officials agreed on recommendations for policies and programmes to address nutrition across multiple sectors which “enshrines the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food” while committing governments to preventing malnutrition and hunger. A utopian aspiration under capitalism. But FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva confirmed one truth, “We have the knowledge, expertise and resources needed to overcome all forms of malnutrition.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Change the system, not the climate!

Catastrophic climate change is coming to a town near you, and it’s coming sooner than you think. The threat is staggering: One half of all the species alive on earth today will probably be extinct by the end of the century; already we are losing them at the rate of hundreds a day. Millions of human beings will soon be refugees, as their homes are lost to the oceans or to the deserts. Already hundreds of thousands perish every year as a direct result of climate change. There is a climate crisis all around and no amount of free trade, investment or technology will eliminate the roots of this crisis. We forget that the crises has emanated from the way our society is structured – an edifice based on an unending desire for profit and a way of life that sees nature as an object of exploitation and extraction. It is now fundamental to ask ourselves who and what is causing the climate to change like this. We urgently need to unmask all the abstract answers, which attempt to blame all of humanity. These abstract answers disconnect the current situation from the historical dynamics which have emerged from fossil fuel (coal, oil gas)-based industrialization, which causes global warming, and the logic of capitalism, which is sustained by the private appropriation of wealth, and the conquest of profit. Profit at the cost of social exploitation and ecological devastation: these are two faces of the same system, which is the culprit of climate catastrophe.

There is an international scientific consensus: only by containing global warming at less than two degrees Celsius can we prevent the full onslaught of catastrophic climate change. Once this point is passed, earth system feedback loops (for example, the release of methane trapped in melting permafrost and the ocean floor) will overwhelm any human effort at mitigation. To prevent this, according to the same international scientific consensus, carbon emissions must peak by 2015, followed by a rapid and permanent decline. Such words, however, contradict the logic of our economic system, which is based on the imperative of infinite growth. This system has a name: it is capitalism, and it is the enemy of nature.
Capitalism is the reigning economic system built upon profitability. It is equipped with an elaborate class structure and a vast apparatus of institutions to establish its global reach and penetration into lives. In this sense capitalism is the “mode of production” characteristic of our epoch and we consider it to be the cause of most of our social problems and many of our personal woes. Its survival is based on the predatory exploitation of people and of the planet. Marx called attention to its tendency to grow without end, that central feature of capital, its ceaseless growth, as in: “Accumulate! Accumulate! That is Moses and the Prophets!” Marx’s conception of accumulation puts into a deep shade all efforts at reform of the capitalist system, for when reform becomes the goal it works to improve, even perfect, the functioning of the system along with remedying its damages—a contradiction in the case of capital. Under the regime of capital, the commodity rules, as fetish, or idol. We need to trans-form, not re-form, capitalism. Our obligation—to our children and grandchildren, to life, and the future itself—is to find a way of society whose productive logic does not impose accumulation on the world.

Decades of international conferences and decades of missed opportunities demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that neither governments nor corporations nor NGOs are willing or capable of bringing about what every doctor has ordered. The tireless work of activists, well-intentioned officials and enthusiastic school children have made one thing clear: rallies outside office buildings and conference centers will not turn the tide. The time for symbolic protest and for demands is over. It is too late to speak truth to those in power. Now we must speak to the power within ourselves. The clock is ticking. We have a duty to resist the exploitative, extractive, unequal and unjust economic system. We need to replace it. We must restore the rhythm of humanity living in harmony with ourselves and with the earth. There is an alternative. It is being imagined and created all over the world, and now is the time to realize it. But we cannot move beyond fossil fuel, war without a positive vision of the world we wish to create and care for.

Such is the core principle of socialism which does not settle for anything less than the extirpation of capitalism as a mode of production, refusing to turn away from the goal of social revolution. It follows that a prime task for socialism must be to produce eco-socialists capable of bringing nature into continuity with humankind’s rootedness. Capitalism is not just “an economic system” – it is a social system, which has created this thing we call “the economy”, and subordinated everything, from the soil to the sky, to its laws. The economy becomes the central organizing force of society, and also its limit, which cannot be transgressed. The goal of socialism is thus to emancipate ourselves from capitalism.

We set forth our ideas, not to impose them on anyone, but to encourage and inspire the opening of a vision of an alternative future we can all choose and work towards. We have a world to re-build. With this common vision we believe that a movement of billions, united, is only a hair’s breadth away. Even in the unlikely case that you may not care of our times, spare a thought for you coming generations, their inheritance. Do you wish to present to them a world of chaos and destruction? We need to unite, all the people of the world, to resolve the environmental crises, to restore our relationship with nature. We call for the solidarity and harmony of all world’s peoples, united in struggle against the structure of capitalism – of greed, thievery and profiteering. We must build unity through understanding. Socialist ideas is the way in which we understand this world. We understand the current world order as unacceptable. We know a new world is necessary. While others are afraid to understand that capitalism is the enemy of nature, we want to change the system and not the symptoms. Organizing around this is the key to building the socialist movement. We declare that a socialist revolution is necessary and possible.

Popular movements are sweeping the world. A truly global grassroots network has emerged. It is undeniable, feeling its way forward but unsure of itself. People everywhere are searching for a way to change things, for a way to get involved in the world. They are finding movements, and are going through cycles of euphoria and despair. There is a renewed awareness of the commons, and people are reclaiming them. Sometimes in our local struggles we feel like we’re just patching up the system; fighting for band-aids on gaping wounds. But theorizing about revolution without a social base of concrete activity and organization is no better. How can all this local struggle converge into something bigger and better? We understand that an anti-capitalist critique must be the lens and context for our daily lives. We are also searching for a vision to take us beyond protest, beyond mere resistance. Nor is socialism a utopia that we await with folded arms. The transformation of society will not be achieved by fragmented social activism or political action limited to the electoral arena alone. Only the convergence of social and political struggles in a comprehensive overall movement will enable us to build the necessary relationship of forces to be able to challenge the policies of the ruling class.

Socialism means a new mode of production. Socialism means a new understanding of human fulfillment, of human development. Socialism begins with freely associated labor in harmony with nature, without exploitation of humanity or nature. It is activated by life and not profit. It returns us to our most ancient roots as a species even as it carries us forward to the future. Shall civilization emerge into a new world, with the end of the rule of capital over our planet, or shall we plunge into a deep abyss of climate catastrophe, a hell only a few may survive? The world may become unlivable in 50 years. The cause of this is capitalism. The planetary effects of climate change, from droughts to super-storms, are proving this to the world.

Change the system, not the climate!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Only Socialists Can Save The World

The Socialist Party agree with the many environmentalists who have concluded that “business as usual” is the path to global disaster. The economic system that dominates nearly all corners of the world is capitalism. Unconsciously, we learn that greed, exploitation of workers, and competition  are not only acceptable but are actually good for society because they help to make our economy function “efficiently.” No-growth capitalism is an oxymoron: when growth ceases, the system is in a state of crisis. Capitalism’s basic driving force and its whole reason for existence is the amassing of profits and wealth through the accumulation.  It recognizes no limits to its own self-expansion—not in the economy as a whole; not in the profits desired by the wealthy; and not in the increasing consumption that people are cajoled into desiring in order to generate greater profits for corporations. The environment exists, not as a place with inherent boundaries within which human beings must live together with earth’s other species, but as a realm to be exploited in a process of growing economic expansion. Indeed, businesses must either grow or die—as must the system itself.

The capitalist no-growth utopia violates the basic motive force of capitalism. What capital strives for and is the purpose of its existence is its own expansion. Why would capitalists, who in every fiber of their beings believe that they have a personal right to business profits, and who are driven to accumulate wealth, simply spend the economic surplus at their disposal on their own consumption or (less likely still) give it to workers to spend on theirs—rather than seek to expand wealth? If profits are not generated, how could economic crises be avoided under capitalism? To the contrary, it is clear that owners of capital will, as long as such ownership relations remain, do whatever they can within their power to maximize the amount of profits they accrue. A stationary state, or steady-state, economy as a stable solution is only conceivable if separated from the social relations of capital itself. Today multinational corporations scour the world for resources and opportunities wherever they can find them, exploiting cheap labor in poor countries and reinforcing, rather than reducing divisions. The result is a more rapacious global exploitation of nature and increased differentials of wealth and power. Such corporations have no loyalty to anything but their own financial bottom lines.

Business owners and managers generally consider the short term in their operations—most take into account the coming three to five years, or, in some rare instances, up to ten years. This is the way they must function because of unpredictable business conditions (phases of the business cycle, competition from other corporations, prices of needed inputs, etc.) and demands from speculators looking for short-term returns. They therefore act in ways that are largely oblivious of the natural limits to their activities—as if there is an unlimited supply of natural resources for exploitation. Even if the reality of limitation enters their consciousness, it merely speeds up the exploitation of a given resource, which is extracted as rapidly as possible, with capital then moving on to new areas of resource exploitation. When each individual capitalist pursues the goal of making a profit and accumulating capital, decisions are made that collectively harm society as a whole. The irreversible exhaustion of finite natural resources will leave future generations without the possibility of having use of these resources.

How can we save the Earth? Capitalism is unique among social systems in its active, extreme cultivation of individual self-interest. Our global culture is held together and connected by our economic system of money, laws and enforcement. This economic system is structured in such a way that it automatically and unintentionally motivates and perpetuates behaviors that are damaging to Earth. Yet the reality is that non-capitalist human societies have thrived over a long period—for more than 99 percent of the time since the emergence of anatomically modern humans—while encouraging other traits such as sharing and responsibility to the group. There is no reason to doubt that this can happen again.

The need for revolution is now increasingly being widely realised. The revolutionary socialist calls for power to the people. Socialism is rule by the people. They will decide how socialism is to work. This was how Marx and Engels defined socialism.  A sound definition of socialism must necessarily exclude all the institutions that make capitalism what it is:  a system of exploitation. The highly complex machinery of exchange veils this exploitation because it includes human energy, or labour-power, among the things bought and sold. It makes labour-power a commodity with a price, or wage-scale, adjustable to the practice of capitalism. Exchange, working in conjunction with private or class ownership of the means of life, is in fact, based on that ownership, and becomes the method by which the producers are exploited. Exchange is an act that implies ownership by individuals, groups or states. Common ownership rules out all such forms of ownership, and by producing and distributing according to the needs of all, eliminates the necessity for exchange. It is possible to conceive of exchange under a system of private, class or state ownership, but not under common ownership.  Exploitation will be eliminated and production will serve the needs of the people.

Socialism is about forming a society which is radically different from any that has gone before, a society based on the elimination of private property. The latter is condemned as being the cause of all the ills afflicting mankind, from minor disputes over boundaries to the great wars that have turned the whole world upside down. It is also about setting up a regime based on common ownership. There was no attempt by the Bolsheviks to abolish private property. Even their promise of equal wages, which has nothing to do with socialism anyway, was quickly dropped and large differentials in income were encouraged instead, while the Bolsheviks made sure that all property came under their direct control and, in effect, ownership. To use the word “socialism” for anything but people’s power is to misuse the term. State ownership is not socialism, nor does nationalisation constitute the ‘socialist’ sector of a mixed economy. Nor is the ‘Welfare State socialist.  Certainly it is an improvement on capitalism with no welfare, just as a 40-hour week is an improvement on a 60-hour week. But it is not socialism. But “welfare” in a capitalist state, to improve the efficiency of that state as a profit-maker, is not socialism but a form of state capitalism.

Many people today across the globe are involved in issues and struggles to improve their situation or stop injustices that they face. In practically every country and community, there are political struggles, and, of course, the never-ending efforts by workers to obtain a living wage. These various struggles are important but what the Socialist Party keeps in mind and build towards is the goal of revolution. By revolution, we mean the overthrow of the capitalist ruling class and the basic economic system of society. We believe a revolution is necessary because the social problems and ills of this society are all the product of the capitalist system itself. The basic nature of capitalism is that while the vast majority of people work and produce the wealth of society, a handful control all the wealth – the factories, mines, railroads and fields, and all the profits that are produced. These capitalists prosper at the expense of the vast majority of the people, and their constant drive for profit and more profit results in only more problems and suffering for the people.

While reforms are important, we believe that no amount of reform of the present system can offer any lasting improvements, security or stability or fundamentally alter their position in society.And too often the reformist is a hypocrite prepared to exercise power on behalf of the exploiter, and who claims to do a little good on the side. The ruling class always tries to limit or even take back those concessions that workers have won. The capitalists will always do this so long as it holds the power of society; it will try to milk everything it can from the working people to enrich or protect its own interests. In any sane system of running the economy, industry would exist to satisfy human need. But under capitalism humans exist to satisfy the needs of industry. If anything positive comes about as a result - such as the production of useful things and the payment of wages with which to buy them - this is a by-product of the process, rather than its main aim.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fracking Scotland

“The IPCC [UN climate science panel] is quite clear about the need to leave the vast majority of already proven reserves in the ground, if we are to meet the 2C goal. The fact that despite this science, governments are spending billions of tax dollars each year to find more fossil fuels that we cannot ever afford to burn, reveals the extent of climate denial still ongoing within the G20,” said Oil Change International director Steve Kretzman.

The most detailed breakdown yet of global fossil fuel subsidies has found that the US government provided companies with $5.2bn for fossil fuel exploration in 2013, Australia spent $3.5bn, Russia $2.4bn and the UK $1.2bn. The government money went to major multinationals as well as smaller ones who specialise in exploratory work, according to British thinktank the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Washington-based analysts Oil Change International. The report found that  four times as much money was spent on fossil fuel exploration as on renewable energy development.

It shows an extraordinary “merry-go-round” of countries supporting each others’ companies. The US spends $1.4bn a year for exploration in Columbia, Nigeria and Russia, while Russia is subsidising exploration in Venezuela and China, which in turn supports companies exploring Canada, Brazil and Mexico.

Britain, says their report, proved to be one of the most generous countries. In the five year period to 2014 it gave tax breaks totalling over $4.5bn to French, US, Middle Eastern and north American companies to explore the North Sea for fast-declining oil and gas reserves. A breakdown of that figure showed over $1.2bn of British money went to two French companies, GDF-Suez and Total, $450m went to five US companies including Chevron, and $992m to five British companies. Britain also spent public funds for foreign companies to explore in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Ghana, Guinea, India and Indonesia, as well as Russia, Uganda and Qatar, according to the report’s data, which is drawn from the OECD, government documents, company reports and institutions.

“The evidence points to a publicly financed bail-out for carbon-intensive companies, and support for uneconomic investments that could drive the planet far beyond the internationally agreed target of limiting global temperature increases to no more than 2C,” say the report’s authors.

“This is real money which could be put into schools or hospitals. It is simply not economic to invest like this. This is the insanity of the situation. They are diverting investment from economic low-carbon alternatives such as solar, wind and hydro-power and they are undermining the prospects for an ambitious UN climate deal in 2015,” said Kevin Watkins, director of the ODI.

The above should be noted regards to the latest development to frack beneath the Firth of Forth in the already well-polluted Grangemouth/Kincardine area. Cluff Natural Resources [what an environmentally sounding company name that is] said plans are being drawn up to extract coal from under the Firth of Forth following a large discovery.  The company is seeking permission to build the UK’s first deep offshore underground coal gasification (UCG) project to extract it. Cluff said two of the coal seams identified have 43mln tonnes of coal in place (CIP), or the equivalent of 1.4 billion cubic feet (BCF) of natural gas-in-place. For context, 1bn cubic feet of gas could serve 11,000 homes for one year. The process of gasification involves drilling horizontally into a seam and then injecting air and oxygen to produce syngas - a mixture of combustible gases which include hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and carbon dioxide.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said Scotland needs to rely more on electricity and renewables rather than coal and gas. “Plans to ‘burn’ coal under the Firth of Forth will not deliver that aim and should therefore be a complete non-starter,” he said. “In a worst-case scenario, proposals such as this one could even extend our use of fossil fuels, locking us into a high carbon world. Just over a week ago, scientists from the United Nations issued their latest predictions of the growing threat from global climate change and the need to be rapidly phasing out our use of fossil fuels. Since the developers themselves have admitted that carbon dioxide will be emitted by their plans, from a climate change perspective this scheme is nothing short of irresponsible.”

There is no peoples’ mandate for the fossil fuel industry to unleash and bring on runaway global warming that will bring humankind to its knees, sink whole island countries, and may eventually cause the death of half or more of the species on the planet and billions of human souls. Politicians  have ignored the damage to sustainable world resources, and have invited chaos. Instead of being acquiescent, we should all be angry.  Our children and their children's future depends on it.