Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Socialist Party and Extinction Rebellion

Despite the radical language and dramatic protests, Extinction Rebellion is essentially a reformist movement, based on the premise that present society can be perfected or at least improved, to the point where the damage to our environment can be remedied. Unfortunately, some members of the Socialist Party some would say those earnest activists lack real vision. Before production can be carried out in ecologically-acceptable ways capitalism must go. Production for profit and the uncontrollable drive to accumulate more and more capital mean that capitalism is constitutionally incapable of taking ecological considerations properly into account—and that it is futile to try to make it do so. 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. If we are going to organise production in an ecologically sound way then we must first be in a position to control production, but we can’t control production unless we own and control the means of production. So, a socialist society of common ownership and democratic control is the only framework within which the aims of Extinction Rebellion can be realised. So, those within Extinction Rebellion should be socialists.

 The Greens hold that market exchange (buying and selling) good and market forces (Adam Smith's invisible hand) can be tamed by the introduction of climate-change mitigating laws of the State. It's the idea of an idyllic capitalism.

The difference between us and Extinction Rebellion is that the Socialist Party is concerned about other problems besides the environment and that we think capitalism can never be modified to work in an environmentally-friendly way. Under capitalism profits and profit-making must come first before all other considerations, including protecting the environment and maintaining a sustainable ecological balance. Our criticism is aimed at those who think capitalism can be modified into such.  Lobbying groups like Extinction Rebellion avoid proposing any alternative to existing capitalism: they assume in practice that this form of capitalism will continue eternally and see their role as merely as a pressure-group within it for new laws and regulations to protect the environment. Lobbying can, occasionally, achieve a concession but we are talking about very minor adjustments which make no difference whatsoever to the overall functioning of capitalism as a system that has to put profit-making before all other considerations including the environment. Extinction Rebellion views their direct action as not reformist, but do they really think that they can coerce the state. Direct action can sometimes work against soft targets but it has never worked against state power. It has never stopped a single nuclear power station being built, nor a single motorway or by-pass. There is a roll-call of defeats not victories. Under these circumstances continually banging your head against a brick-wall is not an intelligent course of action, even if this might give rise to the illusion that you are not a reformist who wants to modify capitalism. People are right to be concerned about what is happening to the environment. There really is a serious environmental crisis. The issue is not whether it exists but what to do about it. 

The participants in Extinction Rebellion has one view. We have another. They view themselves as the militant wing of the environmental movement. We say the thing to do is to work towards building up a movement to end capitalism, the root cause of global warming and climate change. We say that no government can protect the environment. Governments exist to run the political side of the profit system. And the profit system can only work by giving priority to making profits over all other considerations. So to protect the environment we must end production for profit. Environmental degradation result from the inappropriate ways in which materials from nature are transformed into products for human use. But what causes inappropriate productive methods to be used? Is it ignorance or greed? No, it is the way production is organised today and the forces to which it responds. Governments do not have a free hand to do what is sensible or desirable. They can only act within the narrow limits imposed by the profit-driven market system whose rules are "profits first" and "you can’t buck the market". Regardless of their sincerity, notwithstanding their confrontational methods, Extinction Rebellion is not against the market and is not against profit-making. You can’t impose other priorities on the profit system than making profits. That’s why it will ultimately fail. If the Extinction Rebellion ever wants their arguments to carry any force, they should campaign to abolish capitalism.

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