Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The End of the World as We Know It?

The view of Marxist philosopher Joseph Dietzgen in the 19th century expounded under the name of "dialectical materialism" (not to be confused with the ideology of Stalinism) that the things we perceive don't exist as separate, independent things but are only parts of an interrelated and interacting universe which alone has an independent existence ("holism", as it is now called) and that everything in the universe is composed of the same "stuff’ or material ("monism”). It is because ecology is all about interrelationships that socialists have always understood its significance. The importance of the way living things get their means to survive it is the application to the world of nature of the same approach that the “materialist conception of history” takes to human society. It is a materialist conception of the world of living things. In this sense, members of the Socialist Party can legitimately call ourselves ecologists, with actually more justification since the social changes we advocate are the only lasting and effective way of restoring a proper balance between humanity and nature. Whatever we might like to think, we are not the species that has “conquered” nature and freed itself from its laws; we are a part of nature and cannot, without serious consequences, permanently infringe on our relationship to the rest of nature. can only survive over time if a certain equilibrium is established and maintained –what has been called “the balance of nature”. If this balance is not respected, then the ecosystem begins to break down with serious consequences for all involved.

Working people have little or no control over carbon emissions , locally or globally, while the State exists only to further the interests of its capitalist class, taking action only when their general or particular interests warrant it. Present-day capitalist society is incapable of regarding nature as anything other than a resource to be looted for short-term, sectional economic gain. It is true that from time to time the state does step in to prevent excesses but this does not alter the basic mechanism of capitalism. Laws against the rape of the environment are only necessary where the tendency to do this is built-in to the economic system. It also means that such laws, besides being frequently broken, can only be palliatives, attempts to deal with effects while leaving the cause intact. Too many of those involved in the Extinction Rebellion protests show little understanding of the economics of capitalism. Instead, they offer environmental reforms which they trustingly believe capitalists can incorporate into their production processes in the interests of the whole of society without endangering rates of profit. It is this poverty of thought which is the most lamentable aspect of otherwise laudable concern about our planet's well-being and welfare.

Capitalism is precisely a society geared to “growth” or. more accurately, to the accumulation of capital. This is its logic, its dynamic, even if this growth is not in a straight line but in ups and downs. Capitalism isn't really geared to meeting human needs; it likes to create, and then satisfy human wants. The top end of the market lavishly caters for the wants of people with plenty of money to spend. The bottom end of the market sells cheap (and often shoddy or unhealthy) goods and services to people with little money but who need them. The market doesn't cater at all for people with no money - they have to rely on stealing, charity or handouts. The nature of the only social framework within which human beings could live in harmony with, not at the expense of, the rest of nature is easy enough to discern: it would have to be a society based on common ownership not property and a society in which the aim of production was to satisfy human needs, not to make and accumulate profits. What respecting ecological principles involves is, first of all, a recognition that there is a balance of nature which can be upset by the choice of techniques of food, energy and industrial production. It involves choosing techniques in the light of this knowledge, including developed industrial techniques since nothing prevents these from being in principle integrated into a sustainable ecosystem. Change, involving upsetting a particular balance, is not at all ruled out nor is it necessarily undesirable in itself but, once again, it must be realised that change can upset the existing balance of nature and that steps must therefore be consciously taken to help a new, different balance to be found. It is likely that, after an initial increase in food, energy and industrial production to help overcome the problems of world hunger, destitution and disease which socialism is bound to inherit from capitalism, production levels will become stabilised in socialism and be tied to population levels (which will also be stabilised). In other words, socialism will eventually become a society with a stable level of production, integrated into a stable relationship with the rest of nature; a particular balance with nature will be achieved and sustained.

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