Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sustainable Socialism

The science of ecology gives us powerful tools for understanding how nature functions — as interrelated, integrated ecosystems. It gives us essential insights into humanity’s impact on the environment, but it lacks a serious political social analysis. There exists a reformist fallacy that capitalists foreseeing an environmental apocalyptical future would stop investing their capital in unethical enterprises. Capitalists are the servants (“the functionaries” as Marx described them) of capital. They cannot but accumulate more and more capital: that is their function. Let us suppose that many capitalists do perceive that their interests are facing an ecological threat. What good would it do them to withdraw their capital? The capitalists are incapable of class unity, and no sooner would one withdraw investment than another would take his place as a new functionary of capital.

While science and technology have increased the land’s capacity for producing food, it is sobering thought to realise that of the over 7 billion people inhabiting the earth, nearly 1 billion are hungry.

Sustainability. That’s the popular word today in discussions of food production and the environment. But for farmers, ‘sustainability’ means not only those practices that are good for managing soil, water, and land, it also means a few things practical to the business side of the farm, such as having enough land and feed to sustain the cattle, or managing the farm to stay profitable and in business, or managing the land in a way that brings opportunities to future generations. At its basic level, sustainability can mean maximizing the land’s potential to produce more forage per acre and more milk per cow. Profitability. Whatever the specific definition of ‘sustainable,’ one thing is for certain: economics drive solutions within capitalism.

Is it necessary for people to eat as much meat as we do? Until relatively recently, meat was generally only eaten on special occasions and, even then, largely by the rich. For millennia we have raised animals on non-arable land and fed them indigestible waste from our food production, either harvesting their milk or their meat in return. Eating meat was occasional.

Climate change, with all the challenges that that brings, will be accelerated if we continue to factory farm at the rate we presently do. Intensive farming process is doing little to help the environment. We humans face a choice. As populations grow towards crisis levels and earth resources come under near-intolerable pressure, we have to decide how to feed ourselves.

Socialism can make an ecologically balanced world possible, which is impossible under capitalism. The needs of people and the planet will be the driving forces of the economy, rather than profit. It will set about restoring ecosystems and re-establishing agriculture and industry based on environmentally sound principles. The only way we can change the world is to be fighting for the goal of socialism today. The longer we take to get started, the harder it will be

We recognise that there may not be one single way of doing things, and precise details and ways of doing things might vary from one part of the world to another, even between neighbouring communities. Of course, we can reach some generalised conclusions based on basic premises – that socialism will be necessarily democratic, for example – and can outline broad principles or options that could be applied. That is, we do not have to draw up a plan for socialism, but simply and broadly demonstrate that it is possible and therefore refute the label of “utopianism”.

We look to the real world to see how it is, and how it could be. Socialist society is not starting from a blank sheet and we are inheriting an already existing economic system. Workers with all their skills and experience of co-operating to run capitalism in the interests of the capitalists could begin to run society in their own interest. We do not need to build the new society in the womb of the old, that is here already.

Abundance is not a situation where an infinite amount of every good could be produced . Similarly, scarcity is not the situation which exists in the absence of this impossible abundance. Abundance is a situation where productive resources are sufficient to produce enough wealth to satisfy human needs, while scarcity is a situation where productive resources are insufficient for this purpose. "Unlimited wants" is an abstraction of Capitalism. Needs are indeed finite .

Not all resources are available in sufficient supply to meet all uses for them. Land is an obvious case in point: a piece of land cannot be used at the same time for housing and for farming . Some criteria will indeed have to be developed for deciding what use to put them to Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”, perhaps. Needs that were most pressing and upon which the satisfaction of others needs were contingent, would take priority over those other needs, high priority end goals would take precedence over low priority end goals where resources common to both are revealed to be in short supply.

Cost benefit analysis is an elaborate skill in capitalism and could be a neutral tool based on a “points system” to evaluate a range of different projects facing society.

Allocation calculations in socialism will not be economic but technical. In socialism calculations will be done directly in physical quantities of real things [calculation in kind], in use-values, without any general equivalent unit of calculation ie money and prices.

No comments: