Thursday, May 30, 2019

Stop tinkering with capitalism - Get rid of it completely

Can a leopard change its spots. Some believe so in that investors will altruistically sacrifice short-term self-enrichment for the future of the planet and its people. It makes for good PR, but the truth is more complicated.

Exxon Mobil Corp shareholders on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would have forced the company's board to create a special committee on climate change.
Shareholders also defeated measures requiring the company to report the risks of climate change at chemical plants on the Gulf Coast in the United States and to report political contributions and lobbying.

Under CEO Darren Woods, Exxon has launched major expansion programs to find and produce new reserves of oil and natural gas, as well as to expand the company's refining and chemical footprint. Exxon has projected shale production of 1 million barrels per day at the Permian Basin around western Texas, the top US shale field, as early as 2024.

Shareholders in recent years have pressed Exxon - the largest publicly traded oil producer - to define a path toward meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming. But the company has yet to commit to any targets.

Chevron Corp's shareholders overwhelmingly rejected three environmental resolutions: proposals to create the company's own board committee on climate change, to report on reducing carbon footprint, and to report on the human right to water. 

Ethical funds are just a fraction of the £4.5tn investment industry.
An example is that the world’s five major tobacco companies are thriving, profitable and increasing sales. With divestment, someone with a lot less scruples, a lot less concern over long-term impact becomes the principal investor.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign makes demands that no corporate executive could ever meet. They must: stop searching for new hydrocarbons, stop lobbying for special breaks from government, and commit to leaving their existing reserves in the ground. The consequences to share price from announcing such policies is greater than the threat posed by green investors taking out their money.

All over the world capitalism plunders and wastes the Earth’s non-renewable mineral and energy sources. All over the world it pollutes the sea, the air, the soil, forests, rivers and lakes. All over the world it upsets natural balance. Clearly this destruction and waste cannot continue indefinitely, but it need not; it should not and must not.

It is quite possible to meet the needs of every man, woman and child on this planet without destroying the natural systems on which we depend and of which we are a part. The methods that would have to be adopted to achieve this are well enough known:
The practice of types of farming that preserve and enhance the natural fertility of the soil;
The systematic recycling of materials (such as metals and glass) obtained from non-renewable mineral sources;
The prudent use of non-renewable energy sources (such as coal, oil and gas) while developing alternative sources based on natural processes that continually renew themselves (such as solar energy, wind power and hydroelectricity);
The employment of industrial processes which avoid the release of poisonous chemicals or radioactivity into the biosphere;
The manufacture of solid goods made to last, not to be thrown away after use or deliberately to break down after a calculated period of time.

So what stands in the way? Why isn’t this done? The simple answer is that, under the present economic system, production is not geared to meeting human needs but rather to the accumulation of monetary wealth out of profits. As a result, not only are basic needs far from satisfied but much of what is produced is pure waste from this point of view—for example all the resources involved in commerce and finance, the mere buying and selling of things and those poured into armaments.

A sustainable economic system, one that respects the laws of ecology, can only be instituted if production for the market is completely abolished through the establishment of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and replaced by production solely for use. The relations between productive units — and between local communities — then cease to be commercial ones and become simple relations between suppliers and users of useful products without the intervention of money, buying and selling, trade or barter. Activists in Extinction Rebellion who want a radical transformation of the world can stick to their principles but come to realise, as the Socialist Party has done, that a sustainable society can only be achieved within the context of a world in which all the Earth’s resources, natural and industrial, have become the common heritage, under democratic control at local, regional and world level, of all humanity.

The whole system of production, from the methods employed to the choice of what to produce, is distorted by the imperative drive to pursue economic growth for its own sake and to give priority to seeking profits to fuel this growth without consideration for the longer term factors that ecology teaches are vitally important. The result is an economic system governed by blind economic laws which oblige decision-makers, however selected and whatever their personal views or sentiments, to plunder, pollute and waste. This growth-oriented and profit-motivated capitalist system exists all over the world. If needs are to be met while at the same time respecting the laws of nature, then the capitalist system must go. If we are to meet our needs in an ecologically acceptable way we must first be able to control production—or, put another way, able to consciously regulate our interaction with the rest of nature—and the only basis on which this can be done is the common ownership of the means of production.By common ownership we don’t mean state property. We mean simply that the Earth and its natural and industrial resources should no longer belong to anyone—not to individuals, not to corporations, not to the state. No person or group should have exclusive controlling rights over their use; instead how they are used and under what conditions should be decided democratically by the community as a whole. Under these conditions the whole concept of legal property rights, whether private or state, over the means of production disappears and is replaced by democratically decided rules and procedures governing their use.

It is possible to envisage, for instance, the local community being the basic unit of this structure. In this case people would elect a local council to co-ordinate and administer those local affairs that could not be dealt with by a general meeting of the whole community. This council would in its turn send delegates to a regional council for matters concerning a wider area and so on up to a world council responsible for matters that could best be dealt with on a world scale (such as the supply of certain key minerals and fuels, the protection of the biosphere, the mining and farming of the oceans, and space research). Any attempt on the part of a government to impose other priorities than profit-making risks either provoking an economic crisis or the government ending up administering the system in the only way it can be — as a profit-oriented system in which profit-making has to be given priority over meeting needs or respecting the balance of nature. This is not to say that measures to palliate the bad effects of the present economic system on nature should not be taken but these should be seen for what they are: mere palliatives and not steps towards an ecological society.

The only effective strategy for achieving a free democratic society in harmony with nature is to build up a movement which has the achievement of such a society as its sole aim.

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