People all over the world have discovered to their cost that progress means the destruction of what was once a comparatively healthy environment. It means an airport in a once tranquil countryside, a road by-pass with its heavy polluting traffic. Progress can no more be considered in separation from its social background than can any other facet of society. Progress has recently taken society by storm — automation, computers, and all the other things which are supposed to improve the quality of our living standards. But it is profitability and not progress which is the decisive incentive. In its obsessive haste for profits, capitalism seeks the quickest and cheapest methods even though they are plenty of well-informed warnings about the consequences of these policies and the results has been disastrous for humanity. Concerns on the safety of the future are secondary considerations.
Unprecedented changes in the earth’s climate and weather that are happening before our eyes and sounding alarm-bells in our ears. Many dramatic changes in nature and society are already evident. How we interact with our environment is now the central issue for millions of people around the world. Even the world’s politicians (at least, the vast majority) recognise, that something needs to be done to avert disaster. There has emerged a new feeling and a new movement against “capitalism” across a swathe of nations. People have been sickened by the realities of capitalism which is fuelling the anger against the system we suffer under. The cause of the destruction to the environment which now threatens the future of the planet and the people who live on it, lie within the capitalist system itself.
In a world driven by capitalism the potential for catastrophes and disasters. The end of civilisation is not a sci-fi fantasy, but a likely possibility. Climate change has the potential to cause social collapse on a world scale. What is depressing an frustrating is that the solutions to climate change, are relatively simple relatively easy to achieve - if the politico-economic system would allow it. The best way to cut CO2 emissions is to stop burning fossil fuels and begin to use alternative methods of producing renewable energy that does not contribute to global warming. The technology is already here and could reasonably be swiftly implemented. The only obstacle is the vested interests directing governments to protect their profits. The solution to the planet’s climate change crisis is fairly straightforward if we can overcome those who hold political power.
The CEOs at the head the giant global corporations must follow the logic of capitalism to accrue profits and expand markets to survive. They resist with anything which fundamentally threatens their balance sheets and dividend returns. Of course, in theory, and this is what green capitalists argue, they imagine a capitalism that lives off the profits arising from the production and sale of renewable energy. Capitalism can profit from anything it can turn into a commodity – and the history of capitalism is one of showing a remarkable facility for adaptability turning just about anything into commodities. However, the coal, oil and gas industry remains at the core of the production-for-profit system on which the whole capitalist edifice depends. A section of the capitalist class and some governments may well seek a way out of the environmental crisis in dramatic fashion, even if it does involve conflict with another section who want to preserve their power and privilege - and most importantly, their profit margin. But wouldn’t it be a great gamble to bet the future of human civilisation which one would prevail. Governments are committed to the capitalist system and means they submit to the corporations that emit greenhouse gases. If they don’t, they face determined opposition from those with real political clout to oppose any attack on their wealth.
A clear and present danger exists. To carry through the world-scale re-structuring of institutions necessary to cope with this looming global warming disaster runs directly against the stake of Big Business involved, which are driven by the necessity to maximise their profits, no matter the costs to society at large. Many environmentalists believe that reforms can be fought for and won, but it pits them against powerful deeply entrenched capitalist interests. People are being propelled towards a “tipping point” beyond which there is no return. A crisis of this magnitude requires a fundamental change in our social relations with one another and with the eco-systems that sustain us.
The Socialist Party is not against technological progress. Indeed it is clearly desirable that mankind should progress, always seeking to control and improve our environment. The question is, how is this to be done? It is useful to realise that the present social system, for all its mouthings about innovation and new technology, is, in fact, a fetter upon it. Capitalism holds back advances in our productive powers because it demands production for a market. It means the manufacture of throwaway shoddy goods aimed at capturing the market and being produced as cheaply as possible. It means restricting and holding back production or a new development for fear of overstocking a market and causing a price collapse. It means production at standards well below our capabilities with limited shelf-lives and built-in obsolescence. Capitalism judges everything in terms of profit. Anyone who is interested in the advancement of society then should understand the fact that it is thwarted by capitalism
Socialism is the path needed to ensure certain success. The struggle over climate change points to the urgent need for a society run in a fundamentally different and democratic way to the present capitalist system, one in which not profit but the needs of all the people and the future of the planet we live on are at the heart of how a society should be run. That is the aim of the Socialist Party to overthrow the rule of capital which is based on the cheapest production of goods for sale through the malicious exploitation of working people and the pillaging of nature, all for the endless expansion of exchange-value. Social progress can create the conditions in which to enrich human lives, not to enrich the parasitical privileged class.