Friday, December 07, 2018

Gong Beyond the Green Party

The Green Party sees itself as the political arm of the wider environmental movement, arguing that it is not enough to be a pressure group, however militant, like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, or our latest protest group, Extinction Rebellion. Greens, it says, should organise as well to contest elections with the eventual aim of forming a Green government that could pass laws and imposes taxes to protect the environment. 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. Pollution and 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, as some Greens claim? No, it is the way production is organised today and the forces to which it responds. Production today is in the hands of business enterprises, all competing to sell their products at a profit. All of them—and it doesn’t matter whether they are privately owned or state-owned—aim to maximise their profits. This is an economic necessity imposed by the forces of the market. If a business does not make a profit it goes out of business. “Make a profit or die” is the jungle economics that prevails today. The Green Party is not against the market and is not against profit-making. It imagines that, by firm government action, these can be tamed and prevented from harming the environment. This is an illusion. You can’t impose other priorities on the profit system than making profits.

Although previous societies have inflicted local environmental damage on the planet which sometimes was so severe that it led to their extinction, as in the case of the Easter Islanders, the present scale of degradation is of an entirely different order. It is global and affects everyone. The world’s ecology is currently in a dire condition and capitalism is at fault. It is clear that capitalism, as an economic system, cannot save the planet from global warming and the consequences of climate change. We must lay to rest that capitalism can solve these problems. It must be apparent that we face an urgent crisis yet the ruling representatives of capitalism have greeted all the above with indifference. Environmentalist lobbies think that capitalism can end the destruction to the Earth’s eco-systems without any fundamental change to capitalism if only our political leaders would wake up. This is a common view among environmental activists; a view which sees capitalism moving towards sustainability and zero growth. The idea that capitalism can be reformed to become the charitable and green system is fairly typical of the environmentalist movement. In this model of capitalist society, the basic structures of capitalism remain intact but the distribution of the social product is changed to end inequality. Institutions of capitalism, such as multi-national corporations become social organisations. Lifestyles change and social structures are reformed while technical green advances are applied worldwide. The market becomes harnessed to sustainability. Some sort of world ‘government’ under the main international institutions of global capitalism, UN, World Bank, IMF, WTO or whatever is brought about to police the system. This is all shallow wishful thinking.

We argue that such a scenario completely ignores the way capitalism operates and must operate, as a system and is therefore hopelessly utopian. The present world system is driven by the struggle for profit which leads to competition, nationalism and imperialism. These are the characteristics of capitalism. Yet all of these have been eliminated in the green capitalist world. The present system’s need for infinite growth and the finite resources of Earth stand in contradiction to each other. Successful operation of the system, which in terms of capital means growth or accumulation of capital, means that on the one hand nature as a resource is to be exploited ruthlessly. There is a clear causal relationship between global capitalism’s search for profitable accumulation and global warming and it is for this reason that reformers aim to create a “no growth” capitalist economy. On the one hand, they admit that the present order of states, dominated by an economy exploiting the working class, struggling for profits, operating with relentless competition and backing all this up by imperialism, cannot possibly lead to their utopia since it specifically excludes these things. On the other hand, by excluding these key characteristics of capitalism they admit their utopia is in certain fundamental respects non-capitalist, admitting this utopia is not achievable without a break from capitalism. Yet this is something they are not prepared to countenance. They maintain their humane capitalism is a type of capitalism worth fighting for. The present destruction of the planet is rooted in the capitalist system of production and cannot be solved without a complete break with capitalism. We need to create a higher form of social organisation before the present system destroys us all. The entire system of production based on wage labour and capital needs to be replaced with a system which produces for human needs. All the half measures of converting aspects of capitalism to social purposes, while the fundamentals of capitalism remain in place, are just wishful thinking; and to pretend they could solve our problems is pure deception.

The capitalist class, of course, appoint their top economists, rather than environmental scientists, to advise them on the ecological crisis. What these economists do not appear to realise is that, while starting from the assumption that the ecological crisis can be solved within the capitalist system, their calculations, which show the required costs would be unsustainable, prove the opposite, namely that this crisis cannot be solved within capitalist relations of production. It is obvious that the demands of the capitalist system, namely profits via cheap energy are being followed in preference to any strategy which could ensure the long-term survival of life on the planet. Why are we doing exactly the opposite of what rationality should dictate? Capitalism is a productive system which produces for profit not for human needs. The capitalist system requires continuous accumulation of capital. If capitalists do not accumulate they will collapse, and there is, therefore, a general struggle for accumulation of capital, which means growth and expansion of markets, throughout the entire system. This drive for accumulation is derived from the internal functioning of the system and cannot be avoided. As Marx noted, for capitalism, the watchword was:
“Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!”

The means of production need to be converted from capitalist class property to social property before an equitable system of distribution can be achieved. Instead of the present system in which workers are alienated from the means of production and from the products of their labour, a free association of producers producing for the needs of humanity, is required. Instead of the interchange with nature being determined by capitalist profit, this interchange needs to be collectively planned and regulated by all. Only after such changes can we achieve a balanced exchange with nature. We call a society of socialised property and freely associated producers, producing for human needs, “socialism” or “communism”. It will be a society which will inscribe on its banners:
“From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”.

A society where the free development of each will be the condition for the free development of all. Such a society will differentiate itself from capitalist in a myriad of ways, but the principal differences will be that it is a society without the state, without money, where the mass of humanity participate in the planning and running of society. It will be a society without wage labour and commodity production and without classes. For the first time in human history it will be possible to collectively plan the future of the human species. Humanity will have a common interest and will be able to work towards achieving it. Working time will be reduced and the mass of the population will be drawn into the running of that new society. All will have a common interest in solving the ecological problems inherited from capitalism. With the abolition of capitalist society, all its waste, its cruelty, its wars, together with the misery, agony of toil, ignorance, brutality and mental degradation it inflicts on the working class, will be ended. Socialist society will draw on the abilities of all and produce for the needs of all. It will be able to balance these needs with sustainability. It will then be possible to roll back and repair the dreadful damage capitalism has inflicted on the planet in the few centuries during which it has been the dominant system of production.

The choice facing the world is one of the ruin of civilisation or the construction of world socialism. We address ourselves to those who agree that the capitalist society must be replaced with a free association of producers and citizens. We, in the Socialist Party, are committed to building a world that prides itself on having a sustainable environment and society that co-exists in relative harmony with undeveloped areas of the planet. We insist that our environment not be sacrificed on the altar of profit — either in the form of corporations devouring our forests and waters or in the form of urban sprawl and unnecessary development. We, in the Socialist Party, seek to build a society where the barriers between rural and urban are broken down through the reorganization of society for the benefit of all life on the planet. We, in the Socialist Party, understand that we are not isolated from the world community. On the contrary, our internationalism allows us to understand how what we do has an effect on what happens across and around the world.

 We, in the Socialist Party, are committed to building a society that will be beacon of democracy and social justice. The demands the Socialist Party put forward are based on what working people need if they are to live any sort of a decent life. They are not based on what the capitalist system says it can afford. Our intention is to provide a guide and plan of action, and, at the same time, assist working people in becoming aware of their power to reconstruct society so that it serves the interests of humanity. Our demand is the aim of revolution and the establishment of a democratic socialism. The tactics, methods, and forms of struggle may necessarily change over time, depending on the development of the conditions. But, at all times, these tactics, methods, forms, and aims employed by the Socialist Party are developed with the same objective— the advancing of the struggles of working people for their immediate and historic interests.

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