Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Uniting Eco-Activists with Socialism

As the XR protests carry on and the arrests continue, the majority of our fellow-workers are absorbed in their own job, family, friends and personal problems and are incredibly unaware, misinformed, or uninterested in many wider aspects of life. The absence of a viable socialist movement around the world today is an indisputable and a distressing and depressing fact. Admittedly, this observation of the malaise has been noted by many others and is hardly profound. While the socialist movement stays in disarray, it remains politically ineffective. There is no prescribed remedy or ready cure. Socialists must soberly examine the situation we presently face. The Socialist Party's task is to overcome our isolation and frustration, to confront and hopefully transform existing political, economic and social life. We must keep the socialist ideas alive and struggle to make socialism a reality.

One commonly held belief is that the growing global populations presents one of the greatest ecological problems yet seen. Many environmental activists are convinced that the amount of land and resources used by humans have already exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. Yet this analysis does not stand up to closer scrutiny. Such arguments looks at the problem of resources from the narrow view of "natural limits," when we must focus on the question of how wealth and power are distributed. Instead their view, humanity itself is more or less equally responsible for the climate change crisis we face with our high birth rates and population density the most responsible. Those with the highest birth rates are in the undeveloped and developing world and use a fraction of the world's resources, while a minority with low birth rates in the "developed" countries use most of those resources. While others over-consume the natural wealth of the planet, the poor get the blame. As long as children are the only social security system for vast sections of the world's peoples, as long as women have little control over their economic, social and reproductive lives, it will not be possible for society to rationally discuss how to control its population. We know that owomen in Europe and North America have reduced the number of children they bear despite the many barriers against their doing so. By removing the cultural barriers and building an egalitarian society, the question of lowering the population level will probably not even be a problem and if by some remote chance it were, a democratic discussion could enable us to come up with possible alternatives, rather than the authoritarian paternalistic the path.

In spite of the reality, “philanthropic” foundations and NGOS has been used to target so-called "surplus peoples" for authoritarian population control measures, while ignoring social inequality. These targets have mostly tended to be non-white, poor women, suffering from a severe lack of food, health care, education, and political power. The present “natural limits” do not account for scarcity and hunger. There is more than enough food produced to sustain the current and future level of world population. Yet food does not reach the mouths of those who cannot afford to pay the price, being fed to fatten up livestock to increase profitability.

The social system we live under requires destruction of the environment. If we expect to make a difference, then we must also change the economic system. Policies that concentrate primarily on the individual consumer have not been able to stem the destruction, and have actually drawn attention away from the capitalist commercial institutions responsible for the destruction. If the environmentalist movement is to be successful it does not lie with campaigns calling for people to change their individual life-styles and customary habits. If eco-activists are to succeed, then they must go beyond an individual focus, and identify capitalist society as culpable and the culprit for the climate crisis.

The challenge for the Socialist Party is to present the vision a society consistent with ecology that is sustainable, to explain why in a competitive market economy the minority of people with the economic power who rule over us must ignore global warming cures in order to survive. The Socialist Party needs to show that an alternative society controlled from the bottom up, without a profit- motivated economy that necessitates exploitation of nature and people, is desirable, democratic socialism that people participate in and control and which produces what people need, not what people can afford to buy. Without profit-seeking corporations acting in their own interest, we will have eliminated the major social forces opposing environmental safeguards. Protecting the environment thus moves from an economic impracticality, a cost to be minimised, to a political decision in which sustainable values may now play a role. Furthermore, the environmental movement won't have to fight reformist defensive battles time and again, here and there, putting out fires while the overall situation worsens. Socialism would be ever vigilant movement to develop more sustainable forms of production and exercise rational consumption. Such a world would allow genuine ecological sustainability and stay within the limits of the carrying capacity of the earth. The need is to adhere to the wisdom of living with nature instead of against it.

The Friday Strikes and the Extinction Rebellion movements has called into question many aspects of capitalist society that is complicit in the environmental crisis. In the future they must take these criticisms to heart and make them the core of their campaigns.

 Rather than promoting “small is beautiful” and calling for programmes of localism, in modern society, even with appropriate forms of technology, such as wind and solar for energy, the need for industry cannot be simply wished away. Furthermore, certain industries require centralisation for efficiency, and economy of scale actually may reduce environmental impact in many cases. Each town cannot have its own factory to produce trains, yet the demand for public transportation will not simply disappear but will grow. The environmental movement has focused its efforts on personal responsibility, public awareness, and legislative action. Many activists have spent years focused on a single issue. We can no longer afford the luxury of campaigning on single issues any more. Instead, we should be attempting to draw attention to the root of the problem - economic power. This entails an understanding that the needs of capitalism corporations, and their ability to control government policy. Against such power of vested interests their must be political action rather than moral persuasion.

Under the capitalist system, new technology will always be implemented in order to increase productivity for businesses to be more competitive. Yet the introduction of a new technology does not automatically mean increased exploitation. New technology's time saving can be translated into shorter working hours and greater leisure. Socialism will be liberatory.

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