Friday, November 06, 2015

We have a world to win and a planet to save!

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 end 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-minded socialists capable of integrating nature with humankind. 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 organising 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 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. Organising 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 organisation 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! Share the world, spare the planet!


Anonymous said...

"Nor is socialism a utopia that we await with folded arms." This is exactly what the SPGB does. It has 300 or so members, most of whom do bugger all. It refuses to build alliances with reformist movements and isolates itself from the social action this very fine piece of writing advocates. The rhetoric and the reality are poles apart. The SPGB and its tiny mass of supporters will still be declaring their absolute theoretical purity whilst the world goes to hell in a handcart. For heaven's sake SPGB, get off your arses and do something before it's too late.

ajohnstone said...

We do not advocate alliances with those who believe that capitalism is able to adapt and cope with climate change through the adoption of various legislation and regulation. If you think that such an approach is the most effective one then feel free to join with the corporations and governments in agreeing an agenda of palliatives and ameliorations. We will not be party to what we think is delusional false solutions and fake promises.

Our judgement is that the only solution is, as the slogan goes (and one we did not think up but happy to recycle), "system change not climate change" then we will continue to promote just that, which means describing today's present society accurately which sadly many in the environmentalist movement simply do not understand and explaining exactly the socialist option which again many environmentalists fail to comprehend.

We do not object to people trying to resist and stop capitalism's rape of the planet where it is possible for them to do so and applaud their actions. Indeed some of our individual members do participate where they see fit in opposing the assaults against Nature but although you disparaging describe it as "theoretical purity", the SPGB concentrates upon helping to develop clarity of thought - our activity is not in street theatre but the battle of ideas - a not unimportant task in our view although you insist in calling it rhetoric.

In London at the end of November we will at the climate change protest doing our best to present what we consider is the solution to the global warming crisis and that means criticising COP21, and exposing the limitations of all the NGOs and lobby groups as well as bursting the bubble of many of the protesters who will not be arguing for a change of economic system but placing faith and trust in the "executive committees" of the capitalist class to do the "right" thing.

We say to them, "Get of your arses and do something before its too late" and that something is abolishing the capitalist economic system - anything less is the actual COP-OUT and a refusal to face reality. But in the end, with the increasing likelihood of global catastrophe, we may never have the satisfaction of saying to those seeking half-measures, compromise and concessions, expecting capitalism to fix itself and believing reforms to be the practical, pragmatic choice, "we told you so", and nor would we take much pleasure in saying that,considering the cost of the continuation of the capitalist system to the planet and its peoples.

Ending on a positive note, we are pleased that you describe the post as a "very fine piece of writing" ;-)