Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Furies

Legend has it that Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Not to be outdone, the present ruling class is fiddling while the planet is burning up. The profit motive and capitalism are bringing civilization to the brink of disaster, and time is running out to take corrective actions where possible or to lessen the effects where the damage is already too advanced to be undone. It ought to be clear that the system primarily responsible for bringing humanity such dangers and which even now continues to ignore the warnings of scientists is not about to spend the hundreds of billions  (or trillions) of dollars needed to avert or mitigate the dangers. And that is why capitalism must be destroyed. It will take a fundamentally different type of social and economic system to even begin to rationally address the problem -- a socialist society, freed from what Marx once referred to as "The Furies of private interest" that now control technology and its uses.

This generation must survive and leave its legacy to those who will follow. Reason tells us that the world in which we live does not belong to this generation, or even to the human species. Is it reasonable, then, to permit its ongoing destruction -- not by the human species, but by that tiny minority of the species that is fouling the nest of all species -- the capitalist class? There is no reason inherent in the human species that prevents it from living in harmony with its natural surroundings. Indeed, humanity is itself an integral part of the total environment and no more at odds with it by nature than woodpeckers or wildebeests. Capitalism was as necessary to the development of the human species as adolescence is to the individual human being. But, just as the adolescent must progress into maturity if it survives, so must humanity continue to progress toward the maturity of its social development -- to socialism. If we do not move forward we must either stagnate or regress. It is time to choose.

Current environmentalists, limited in their world view and understanding of the capitalist system, imbued with notions of the "evil men" theory of history, are prone to divorce their specific environmental cause from the whole socio-economic fabric. These eco-warriors are engaged in the endless delaying action against the effects of capitalism on the natural world. Too many feeble and timid environmentalist activists are perennially preoccupied with garnering political influence among politicians. To understand why legislation and regulation have not worked and what kind of action will work to end this worsening environmental nightmare, it must be understood that the environmental crisis is fundamentally an economic and class issue. Its cause lies in the nature of the capitalist economic system. Capitalist-class rule over the economy explains why government regulation is so ineffective: under capitalism, the government itself is essentially a tool of the capitalist class. Politicians may be elected "democratically," but because they are financed, supported and decisively influenced by the economic power of the capitalist class, democratic forms are reduced to a farce.

The teeming data, the mountains and mountains of research reports, the over-loaded university library-shelves, the glutted scientific journals and professional periodicals are saturated with relevant information and details of climate change. Hardly anything seems to have escaped the scrutiny of those scientists and researchers who weigh in with their findings that Mother Nature is in deep trouble. The capitalist system finds all of this tolerable as long as no explicit condemnations of its operations are forthcoming. As always, the moneyed interests come first, and people last. Upon such weight of the evidence gathered by today's environmentalists, a socialist society would take swift, positive and massive efforts to protect the environment. Socialism, of course, with its basic purpose of social production, from production for profit to production for use is inherently conservationist in its orientation. We can expect the workers of every industry to evaluate the repercussions of the productive processes they are engaged in and scientists throughout society will be part of this reassessment, in which the measure of production will be humanity and all living things, and the future generations of all living things.

Marx and Engels perceived enormous squandering of society's resources, a fact that caused Engels to observe:
"When one observes how here in London alone a greater quantity of manure than is produced by the whole kingdom of Saxony is poured away every day into the sea with an expenditure of enormous sums, and what colossal structures are necessary in order to prevent this manure from poisoning the whole of London, then the utopia of abolishing the distinction between town and country is given a remarkably practical basis."
Marx's and Engels' studied the thinking of the most advanced scientists of their day such as Justus von Liebig (1803-1873), who in his writings on the chemistry of agriculture, was to demand that humanity shall give back to the land what it receives from it.

Pollution and ecological damage are not an inevitable product of modern industry. Methods exist or can readily be developed to safely neutralise, recycle or contain most industrial wastes. Less polluting forms of transportation and energy can be built. Adequate supplies of food can be grown without deadly pesticides. The problem is that, under capitalism, the majority of people have no power to make these kinds of decisions about production. Under the capitalist system, production decisions are made by the small, wealthy minority that owns and controls the industries and services -- the capitalist class. And the capitalists who make up that class make their decisions to serve, first and foremost, one goal -- that of maximising profit for themselves. That is where the environmental crisis begins. Socially harmful decisions are made because, in one way or another, they serve the profit interests of the capitalist class.