Monday, September 11, 2017

Ecological Catastrophe Awaits

A good essay on capitalism and climate change by Richard Smith, an economic historian and fully worth highlighting some extracts.

"...In capitalism, competition is the motor that drives growth like a perpetual motion machine. Growth is built in and cannot be exorcised. All efforts to date to "green" capitalism -- cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, dematerialization of production, and so on, have foundered on the brutal reality that no government and no industrialized economy will accept binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions because no one has yet found a way to staunch emissions without staunching economic growth. Yet, in capitalism, there is a one built-in limit to growth: profits. If companies can't make a profit, they will cease production and lay off workers, sometimes masses of workers. Hence, the business cycle..."

 The Socialist Party often emphasises this point but we are crticised for not having enough faith in legislation and regulation.

And it doesn't matter what hue the politician may be.

"... US fossil fuel output grew by some 40 percent on Obama's watch, turning "Saudi America" into an oil exporter for the first time in decades. Indeed, Obama ramped up oil production so much that cheap fuel has encouraged Americans to buy gas-guzzling SUVs and enormous trucks -- so much so that sales of actual cars have collapsed, with the result that fleet mileage actually declined under his presidency..."

 "... the notion that China is going to lead the world fight against climate change is even more absurd. That's because China is different. China's growth drivers are, if anything, even more powerful than those of "normal" capitalism elsewhere, while at the same time, China's bureaucratic particularist political system -- in which power is widely dispersed throughout the 89 million member ruling party -- means that Xi Jinping has little power to change direction even if he wanted to..."

"... the Chinese leadership must maximize growth to generate jobs to keep up with its population growth and create work for workers in sunset industries like coal. In capitalist economies, corporations don't care about the unemployed. If workers, even masses of workers, get laid off, that's not the capitalists' problem. It's not even seen as the government's problem either, except in severe downturns, such as the Great Depression, when our government was obliged to create Civilian Conservation Corps-type jobs programs or face the threat of unrest if not revolt. But because the Chinese Communist Party was once a workers' party, and because the party claims its legitimacy as the (self-appointed) representative of the working class for whom it led the revolution, it cannot completely ignore the workers as capitalists can do in the West...The Chinese Communist Party has been very cruel to workers, as when it subjected them to pitiless exploitation at the hands of foreign corporations in the SEZs. But it must still strive to keep them employed to keep the peace. Already, the government faces hundreds of mass protests across the country virtually every day, more than 160,000 "mass incidents" a year, and strikes and protests against unpaid back pay or overtime, against land grabs, against pollution and against corruption. So, the government cannot afford to let masses of workers be laid off. "

This blog has often drawn attention to the class war that Chines workers are engaged in.

The article concludes rather pessimistically

"...Since neither China's Communist Party nor the US's capitalist industries and their political parties can bring themselves to throttle back their engines of apocalypse, unless great masses of people rise up and overthrow these social orders and replace them with some kind of democratically managed eco-socialism, we're all most likely doomed. That's a stark assessment. And in this day and age, when it seems like civilization is already collapsing around us, it's hard to feel any optimism, let alone imagine reordering the entire world's societies and economies for the common good..."

But offers some hope

"...Right now, we're living in the most critical moment in all of human history. As the prospect of imminent planetary ecological collapse looms ever larger, support for capitalism is crumbling everywhere and people around the world are desperately searching for an ecologically sustainable and more equitable socio-economic system. We may fail to build that better world, and that may be our fate. Yet, inured as I am, somehow I still can't believe that humanity won't find a way. Somehow, perhaps irrationally, I just can't believe that after more than a million years of evolution, and after all the astonishing achievements of thousands of years of human civilization and culture, we're going to throw it all away and drive ourselves and many other species off the cliff to extinction to save our 300-year-old system of capitalism, let alone to save China's ghastly 40-year-old system of police-state capitalism."

The full article can be read here

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