Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wall St Rules

Some of Wall Street’s largest asset management companies are failing to live up to commitments to use their voting power to fight the climate crisis, according to a new report published by Majority Action and the Climate Majority Project. It claims that BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $6tn under management, and Vanguard, with assets of $5.2tn, have voted overwhelmingly against the key climate resolutions at energy companies, including a resolution at ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting, and at Duke Energy.
Had BlackRock and Vanguard not torpedoed these investor efforts, at least 16 climate-critical shareholder resolutions at S&P 500 companies would have received majority support in 2019, representing a significant corporate shift on climate, the report claims.
Refusing to use their proxy votes to support shareholders’ resolutions means letting companies off the hook – even as the climate crisis threatens their investors, their business models and the planet, the group says.
“The climate crisis is well upon us, and leading investors are stepping up to press fossil-fuel-dependent companies to align their strategies to the goals of the Paris agreement but some of the largest US investment companies are severely lagging,” said Majority Action’s Eli Kasargod-Staub. “Blackrock and Vanguard have been using their shareholder voting power to undermine, rather than support, investor action on climate, including opposing every one of the resolutions proposed by the $34tn Climate Action 100+ coalition, calling for significant board room reform in response to its failure to act on climate change.”

The facts are there in black and white for all to see

"What I’ve done for African Americans in two and a half years, no president has been able to do anything like it,” Donald Trump boasted.

In April 2019, when the overall unemployment rate was 3.6% – the lowest it has been in 40 years, the white unemployment unemployment rate was 3.1%. The black unemployment rate was 6.7%. Even as the black unemployment rate hit a record low of 5.5% in August it was still over 2% higher than the white unemployment rate. 

“We’ve sort of normalized this inequality and we expect the black unemployment rate to be double the white rate, so in that context, it’s easier for people to think that the overall rate is a great thing.” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Race, Ethnicity and the Economy program at the Economic Policy Institution.

The higher-than-average black unemployment rate is just one of many data points that show a booming economy does not mean equality for black Americans. There is a serious wealth gap between white families and black families. The median white family has 12 times the amount of wealth than the median black family. Income disparity exists across all education and income levels. A study published in 2018 that used an unprecedented amount of data – 20m records from Americans – showed that black men who were born into low-income families were more likely to end up low-income themselves than any other gender or race.
Much of the wealth gap can be attributed to disparities in home ownership. About 43% of black families own a home, compared with 72% of white families. Black homeownership has actually decreased since 1987, while white, Asian and Hispanic homeownership all increased during the same time period, according to a 2018 report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
There is also a stubborn wage gap between black and white Americans. In 2016, black Americans made 82 cents to every dollar that a white American made. The disparity is even worse for black women who make just over 60% of white men’s earnings and 89% of black men’s earnings.

“Inequality is costly on the people who are burdened by it,” said Andre Perry, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “When you’re not making the kind of commensurate income, you’re living farther away, you have more commute time, you have less discretionary time, you’re spending more money on various transactions that you wouldn’t have to spend. If you don’t ever look at an race, then you’re really not trying to get a full picture of the economy,” said Perry.

Thunberg - Saying it as it is

At a meeting of the Senate climate crisis task force on Tuesday, lawmakers praised a group of young activists for their leadership, their gumption and their display of wisdom far beyond their years. They then asked the teens for advice on how Congress might combat one of the most urgent and politically contentious threats confronting world leaders: climate change.
Greta Thunberg, politely reminded them that she was a student, not a scientist – nor a senator.
“Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” she said. “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.
“If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise. We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.”
She went on to say: “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”
On Wednesday, Thunberg will deliver what has been billed as a “major address” to members of Congress.

A vision of another world - The shape of things to come

As the 20th September Global Climate Strike approaches why do we say that the alternative to socialism is barbarism? Why revive a phrase that seemingly was consigned to history? 

Socialism is not inevitable and if the socialist movement fails, capitalism may well in all probability destroy modern civilisation. We argue that the continuation of capitalism would lead to the collapse of civilised society and the coming of a new Dark Age, similar to Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire:
 “The collapse of all civilisation as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration — a great cemetery.” (Luxemburg, The Junius Pamphlet) 

She also declared, “Humanity is facing the alternative: Dissolution and downfall in capitalist anarchy, or regeneration through the social revolution.” (A Call to the Workers of the World.)

 That isn’t a new concept, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles…that each time ended, either in the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto.) 

The present possibility of barbarism in the 21st Century is no more a far-fetched speculation. Climate change is a threat to humanity as a whole. The scenarios being presented by respected experts are a breakdown in agricultural systems, crop failures, water shortages, deforestation and wildfires, mass migration from coastal regions because of sea-level rises, the increased spread of diseases and climate wars over declining resources. If capitalism continues with business as usual, 21st Century barbarism will be a reality.

We reject the euphemistic softening of the greenwashing of the brutal ecological consequences of capitalism. We believe that the present capitalist system cannot regulate, much less overcome, the global warming crises. It cannot solve the ecological crisis because to do so requires setting limits upon capital accumulation—an unacceptable option for a profit system predicated upon the rule: Grow or Die! The logic of capitalism defines the strategies of CEOs and politicians. All want their money assets to grow.

Externality” is a term capitalist economists use when capitalist corporations don’t pay for the damage they cause. Pollution is the perfect example — individual corporations pollute, but society as a whole bears the cost. Adam Smith’s invisible hand, which supposedly ensures the best of all possible worlds, doesn’t work on externalities.

The popular capitalist solution to market failure is to create more markets via carbon trading and carbon taxes. Sweden’s Dag Hammerskold Foundation shows not only that emissions trading doesn’t work, but that it actually makes things worse, by delaying practical action to reduce emissions by the biggest corporate offenders. What’s more, since there is no practical method of measuring the results of emissions trading, the entire process is subject to massive fraud. Emissions trading has produced huge windfalls for the polluters — it instantly increases their assets, and does little to reduce emissions. Another “market-driven” approach proposes levying taxes levied on corporate greenhouse gas emissions. But if the “carbon taxes” are too low, they won’t stop emissions — and if they are high enough, corporations will shift their operations to countries that don’t interfere with business-as-usual. In any event, it is very unlikely that capitalist politicians will actually impose taxes sufficiently punitive that would force their corporate backers to make real changes.

Most scientists, politicians, and business leaders tend to put their hope in technology. there is a widespread expectation that new technologies will replace fossil fuels by harnessing renewable energy such as solar and wind. Many also trust that there will be technologies for removing carbon dioxide such as cap and capture and for geoengineering the Earth’s climate. Technology although possibly a valuable tool is not a magic wand to save modern civilisation. But doubts about profitability have discouraged investments.

Any reasonable person must eventually ask why businesses and their governments seek to avoid effective action on global warming other than superficial cosmetic changes when they do accept the dire threats of what the future holds. The answer is that the problem is rooted in the very nature of capitalist society, which is made up of thousands of separate corporations, all competing for investment and for profits. If a company decides to invest heavily in cutting carbon emissions, its profits will go down. Investors will move their capital into more profitable investments. Eventually the green company will go out of business. Capitalism is anarchic and its unplanned growth isn’t an aberration, or an externality, or a market failure. It is the nature of the beast.

Socialism still stands for the replacement of capitalism, a task now given an added urgency for the survival of civilisation itself. We say that capitalism is inherently unsustainable and will break down into the barbarism if our effort to build socialism proves unsuccessful. It is humanity's obligation that the struggle for socialism succeeds. Socialism is emancipatory, embracing the goal of transformation of needs, a shift toward use-values over exchange-values—a project of far-reaching significance grounded not in the sense of imposing scarcity, hardship and austere consumption. It is a society of freely associated producers, a world society in ecological harmony with nature, unthinkable under present capitalist conditions. Socialism will be worldwide and universal, or it will be nothing. Air and water doesn’t stop at borders. So long as capitalism remains the world’s dominant economic system, positive changes in individual countries will be undermined by countermoves in other countries seeking competitive advantage. Change must be all-encompassing.

Extinction Rebellion and the rest of the climate movement are demanding something should be urgently done but believe that reforms and legislation is compatible with profits and global markets. Our goal is to overthrow the capitalist mode of production. The problem is capitalism and its emphasis on growth. For the planet to stand any chance, the world's production and distribution system must be redesigned.

The Socialist Party's seeks to bring the cooperative commonwealth into existence. Only an economy that is organised for human needs, not profit, has any chance of slowing climate change and reversing the damage that’s already been done. Only democratic socialist planning can overcome the problems caused by capitalist chaos. Socialism did not triumph in the 20th Century. Today We will either see the fabric of civilisation unravel under the onslaught of an increasingly unstable climate events— or else we will construct a new society forged on a new set of global relationships. Echoing Marx and Engels and Luxemburg, we say that humanity’s choice is Socialism or Barbarism. There is no other way.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Humanity is NOT doomed to destroy the planet.

It feels like the world is on inevitable march toward disaster. The only alternative - impossible as this may seem right now - is to overthrow this global capitalist system and all of the governments that prop it up and replace them with a worldwide economic democracy. 

On Friday, the 20th September, when the strike against to end the climate emergency, the participants and the protesters will have to clearly and robustly answer that crucial question, "Don't like what capitalism does? What's your alternative, then?" The World Socialist Movement can answer, without wanting to sound too sectarian and too arrogant, we are further along the path to eco-socialism than you are and have seen that some of your proposals are side-tracks and dead-ends. But at least you are on the right road. With socialism, the world will no longer be split up into nation-states, super powers, blocs or pacts. Instead we will have to democratically organise around the world to use the Earth's resources to produce for the population's needs, and not for markets or economic quotas.

At every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing over nature – but that we, with flesh and blood and brain, belong to nature and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly. We are gradually learning to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote social effects of our productive activity, and so are afforded the opportunity to control and regulate these effects well. This regulation, however, requires a complete revolution in our existing mode of production…in our whole contemporary social order”

You could be forgiven for thinking the above quotation came from a modern day eco-warrior, commenting on impending global ecological catastrophe and drawing upon the myriad reports currently in existence, written by concerned scientists that portend cataclysmic changes to our life styles if we don’t stop abusing our natural environment immediately. The quote is in fact almost 145 years old and is taken from
Dialectics of Nature, written by Frederic Engels in 1875.

All across the planet the economic system that governments defend plunders and squanders the Earth’s non-renewable mineral and energy resources and with one object in mind – profit. All over the world it pollutes the seas, the air we breathe, the forests, rivers and lakes, upsetting natural balances, eco-systems and defying the laws of ecology. Clearly, this destruction and waste cannot continue indefinitely. It should not and must not and no amount of money is going to redress the delicate balance.

Socialists have long argued that it is quite possible to meet the material needs of every person on this planet without destroying the natural systems on which we depend and on which we are party. So what stands in the way? Why isn’t this done? The simpler answer, which we must not get tired of reiterating, is that under the present economic system, production is not geared to meeting human needs but rather to accumulating profits for a few. Consequently, what we produce and the methods and the materials we employ are not decided rationally and democratically, but are dictated by market forces.

Production today is in the hands of business enterprises of one sort or another, all competing to sell their products at a profit. All of them – and it does not matter whether they are privately owned or state-owned – aim to maximise their profits. This is not the result of the greed of the owners or managers, as some Greens claim, but 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 law of the capitalist jungle.

Under the demands of the market, businesses only take into account their own narrow financial interests, ignoring wider social and ecological considerations. The whole of production, from the process employed to the choice of what to produce, is distorted by this drive to make and accumulate profits. The result is an economic system governed by anarchic market forces which compel decision-makers, however selected and whatever their personal views or sentiments, to plunder, pollute and pillage. The conclusion is clear: If our needs are to be met while at the same time respecting the laws of nature, the present market-driven profit system must go and be replaced with a system capable of producing the essentials humans need, but in an ecologically friendly way.

Most who are involved in campaigns against global warming believe that things could be put right with a change of government policy. What is needed, they say, is a government that will pass laws and impose carbon-emission taxes to protect the environment. But experience shows that no government, however well meaning or determined, can protect the environment. Governments exist to run the political side of the profit system. They do not have a free hand to do what is sensible or desirable. They can only act within the narrow limits imposed by the market system. This is why such reformist policies being advocated are not working. At most it could only succeed in slowing down the speed of decay, not in making the profit system work in an environmentally friendly way. Those who want a clean and safe environment are up against a well entrenched economic and social system, based on class privilege and property and governed by the overriding law of profits first. It can be tempting to get caught up in the emotion of demonstrations, marches and strikes and believing its actually going somewhere. What people should work towards is not a change of government, but a change of society. So the argument that we must do something now presents a false choice. Doing something now means joining us—for socialism.

A Personal Appeal

Many of our fellow-workers are unaware of the circumstances facing a member of the World Socialist Party of the United States, Joe Hopkins. 
Joe has been incarcerated in a Florida prison for the past 15 years or so, serving a life sentence. The sentence bears no relation to the crime he committed and reflects the cruelty and inhumanity of the legal system. Stephen Shenfield, the General Secretary of WSPUS, has set up a website dedicated to freeing Joe. It contains some useful information about Joe including an account by Joe himself of his early upbringing and the horrendous experiences he went through.

Our latest information is that there has been a decline in his health. Like many prisoners, he has long had hepatitis and for many years the condition was deliberately neglected. There was an effective drug but it was considered too expensive for mere prisoners. A couple of years ago a judge ordered that prisoners with hepatitis be given this drug and Joe got a course of treatment that got rid of the virus, but it was too late because he had already developed advanced fibrosis of the liver that led to cirrhosis. In the first stage cirrhosis has no obvious symptoms, but bruises that have now appeared on his arms show that it has now progressed to the next stage. All sorts of unpleasant symptoms and complications are now possible. Except in the highly unlikely event that he receives a liver transplant (he has applied for one), he is now likely to go rapidly downhill and be dead within a year or so.

There are now two different concerns to deal with – to get Joe released on humanitarian grounds and to enable him to receive urgent medical treatment.  At the moment he is on a liver transplant waiting list but the cost of a transplant is shocking – about half a million dollars if you include several months aftercare.  On the face of it, this cost ought to be borne by the prison authorities in view of their clear negligence but that might not count for much in this context.  The alternative might be to initate some sort of GoFundMe campaign via the social media.

Anyway, the point of this post is to urge comrades to make contact with Joe in the first instance.  He could do with some outside contact to boost his morale in the dire circumstances he finds himself in.  Communication is complicated as it has to be done via an email service the prison authorities provide and this has to be paid for.

However, it is possible to route communications via Stephen whose email address appears on the website below.

We have to be very careful about not doing anything precipitous and have to be sensitive to the politics of the situation.  the authorities in Florida would not welcome intervention from outside the state calling for Joe’s release but if anyone knows of people based in Florida who could help this would be extremely useful.
At the moment it is advisable to wait for Joe to tell us how we can help as the situation develops.  But the first thing we can do is to make contact with Joe himself to let him know we are aware of his circumstances.
With that in mind, we urge comrades and sympathizers to write to Joe via Stephen so we can get the ball rolling

End the war on people and on the planet

For many, climate change is too far removed from the present context to be of immediate concern. People say, 'It’ll be a problem 20, 30 years down the road, but I’ve got bigger problems today’. It’s not the immediacy of now. Climate change is already upon us, and it’s hitting fragile countries the hardest with changing drought and flood patterns. We can’t ignore it. That is the purpose of 20th of September and the days following it. To focus our attention upon the looming climate emergency. It’s particularly unsettling because there are the poor vulnerable countries that have contributed little in the way of global carbon emissions but will suffer the most from the effects of global warming. Experts anticipate that food and water shortages could trigger not only enormous suffering, but also mass migrations. Citizens of devastated countries will try to move — legally or illegally — to places where they have a chance to survive. As global temperatures rise and the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increases, more of the world’s population is at risk. Nearly 40 percent of the global population lives near the ocean and climate change will increase the risks associated with hurricanes and flooding. Likening the planet to a human body afflicted by illness Earth is very sick. If we do not start treatment as soon as possible, it may never recover to its former self. 

Climate change exposes capitalism's short-term, irresponsible attitude towards the environment. Already the world is getting warmer; sea level is rising; extreme weather events are increasing. We all depend on nature for our food and water and for all the goods we use which originate from the natural resources around us. Capitalism avoids the responsibility for the damage it does to the environment by pushing the costs onto others, now and into the future. Capitalism is a system that by its very essence must expand. The capitalist system requires continuous accumulation of capital and operates in a circuit of constantly expanding production. There is no political will to respond to the climate and ecological crisis we face. A real solution would require profound social and economic transformations. And we have seen, clearly, there is no will to carry them out so false solutions to climate change arise such as techno-fixes – geo-engineering. The idea that capitalism can be is fairly typical of the environmentalist movement. The destruction of the planet is rooted in the capitalist system of production and cannot be solved without a break with capitalism.

The environmental movement can no longer afford to adopt green capitalism. Businessmen know that to maximise profits environmental concerns are best kept on the product label and out of the production process. While it is perhaps theoretically possible that capitalism can reform itself to redress some of the problems of global environmental crisis, it cannot do so without some serious in-fighting between opposing vested interests and internecine sabotage of policies. Presenting solutions to save capitalism from its own ill-effects would fall upon deaf ears. Capitalists will plead “If I don't do it someone else will' and if they do choose to act upon their ecological convictions, they will be quickly replaced by someone less willing to go green.

The answer to environmental damage does not lie with the number of people. It lies with how production is organised, what technology is used, how decisions are made and by whom, and how wealth and goods are distributed. What socialists say is that in an ecologically rational and socially just world, where large families aren't an economic necessity for hundreds of millions of people, population will stabilise. The advocates of the over-population argument weaken efforts to build an effective global movement against ecological destruction: It divides our forces, by blaming the principal victims of the crisis for problems they did not cause. They ignore the massively destructive role of an irrational economic and social system that has gross waste and devastation built into it. Those who worry about overpopulation tend to view people as nothing more than consumers. Resources are finite; humans consume resources. Therefore, fewer humans will mean more resources to go around. This is the core idea also behind the opposition to immigration. Namely, the fear that more people will mean less work and less wealth for the rest of us. The conclusion is incorrect. The reason is that humans are not merely consumers. 

Every consumer is also a producer as well, and production is how we have improved our standards of living from the dawn of man till today. Every luxury, every great invention, every work of art, every modern convenience that we enjoy was the product of a mind – in some cases, of more than one. It then stands to reason that the more minds there are, the more innovations we will have as well. A reductio ad absudum reveals the obvious truth that a cure for cancer is more likely to emerge from a society of a billion people than from one of only a handful of individuals. Resources are finite; humans consume resources; humans produce resources; therefore, if humans produce more resources than they consume, a greater population will be beneficial to the species. The celebration of low populations in the environmentalist movement is fundamentally anti-human based upon an unfounded bias against humanity. The disappointing reality is that there exist too many environmentalists who believe that the world is already “full up.”

Countering the lazy greedy person argument

On the question of human beings as being “inherently greedy” and harbouring “insatiable wants”, one needs to understand that this has not been a particularly dominant theme in the history of economic ideas – at least not in the naïve form referred to below.  It certainly appears in precursors  to the Neoclassical Marginalist revolution  like Hermann Gossen in the 1850s who had an almost fanatically religious attachment to the idea of maximising one’s self interest  (in fact, he saw egoistic impulses as a “natural law” designed by god which humans have a moral duty to conform to.)

The concept of “Homo Economicus” – Economic Man – was really ushered in or popularised by Alfred Marshall ,  a leading economist in the second generation of neoclassical economists.  However, like  the utilitarian J S Mill, he considered that self interest strictly related to the economic sphere of life and did not deny that human beings were subject to “higher motives” – altruism – in other parts of life.  Marshall defined economics as the  “study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of the material requisites of well being

Marshall’s “Economic Man” was subjected to criticism from people like Thorstein Veblen and other humanistic economists and from then on  you find a subtle shift in the way economics approached the problem of human motives , pioneered by economists like Wicksteed and Lionel Robbins. The ends (whether these be altruistic or egoistic)  were  effectively separated and  distinguished from the means of realising those ends with economics being purportedly concerned only with the what are the most effective means by which human beings realised their ends. 
 Even someone solely motivated by altruistic  concern for others still had to make wise economic choices in order to best realise his/her objectives. In this way the caricature of the “Greedy Man”  was replaced by another caricature “Rational Man” – though one could argue that the latter is just a way of camouflaging, rather than banishing, the former. It is still “self-interested” insofar as it treats other people as a means to realising your ends rather than an end in themselves

So the basic argument becomes this – that in making economic choices we always face “opportunity costs”. If I want to go for a swim this afternoon I cannot at the same time go for a stroll in the park. The opportunity cost of my decision to swim is that I forego a stroll in the park. Similarly if a particular society wants to develop its agricultural sector, say, this may require having to divert resources from some other sector(s) of the economy and so on.  
Thus, the concept of “scarcity is built into the very definition of opportunity costs which any kind of society must face.  This is a truism but we don't think this particular concept of scarcity in any way undermines the case for socialism which depends on our ability to produce enough to satisfy our reasonable needs. In the latter case we are talking about a quite different definition of scarcity which socialists argue is no longer applicable given the development of a productive potential to sustain a socialist society

Which brings us to a final point – it might be slightly misleading to just baldly portray contemporary economics as having as its basic assumption that “people’s wants are insatiable”.  This could be misconstrued as suggesting that my particular want for something  e.g a cone of ice cream – is “infinite”. Obviously this is a caricature and an Aunt Sally argument and in fact, flatly contradicts the “Law of diminishing marginal utility” in contemporary mainstream economics itself.  In other words, for every additional ice cream I consume I derive less utility or pleasure until eventually eating another ice cream might even become a disutility – I might become sick at the very thought of it – meaning very clearly that my demand for ice-cream is definitely not insatiable! Nor is contemporary mainstream economics saying that it is.

Rather, the argument is that as the marginal utility of a good falls with each additional unit of that good consumed, the consumer switches his/her desire to some other good depending on the marginal rates of substitution, (MRS).  The point being that there is no end to the variety of goods that could potentially provide a substitute for ice-cream. Indeed, this argument is employed in “indifference theory ” in conventional economics to analyse consumer behaviour

It is pretty easy to knock down the Aunt Sally argument referred to above but more problematic when it comes to dealing with the so called “Greedy Person” argument in this wider context  of what modern economic theory is actually saying.

For this we need a more sophisticated nuanced approach which recognises that human behaviour is always a dynamic mix of both self interested and altruistic motives and will be so even in socialism. That approach will also need to make a distinction between “needs” and “wants”, in my view,  something that has long been a cornerstone belief in humanistic economics in its debate with conventional mainstream economics.  Sometimes “wants” will have to be sacrificed in order that “needs” be met  – not least in a world in which we face growing environmental constraints.
R. Cox

Socialists have always been green

Over the coming days, cllimate change will once again become a major political issue to discuss and debate. What is needed is an alternative solution outside of the capitalist mindset of the politicians and the protesters, one that takes into consideration the ownership and control of our productive processes; in short the social ownership of the means of life. Only then will we be able to address solutions which will not only benefit all of humanity but also the global environment. To find an effective solution, awareness, and indignation about a problem must be accompanied by an understanding of its cause. Some eco-activists blame modern technology rather than the use — or, more accurately, the abuse — that is made of it under the present system. Many others attribute pressure on resources and the environment to overpopulation and that humans are too greedy. They preach a gospel of restraint on consumption. Yet being in harmony with nature does not mean abandoning modern technological knowledge and regressing to pre-industrial levels. What it means is using materials and applying methods compatible with a balanced functioning of nature. With appropriate modification, modern industrial techniques of production are quite capable of providing enough food, clothing, and shelter for every person on Earth and of doing this without damaging the environment.

Nature and the environment are being damaged today because the productive activity is oriented towards the accumulation of profits rather than towards the direct satisfaction of human needs. The economic mechanism of the profit system can function in no other way. Profits always take priority both over meeting needs and over protecting the environment. This is why the Earth's resources have been plundered throughout the history of capitalism without a thought for the future, why chemical fertilisers and pesticides are used in agriculture, why animals are injected with hormones, why power stations and factories release all sorts of dangerous and noxious substances into the air and water, why waste is not recycled, why goods are made not to last. The list of anti-ecological practices under capitalism because it is more profitable is endless.

Reforms under capitalism, no matter how well-meaning can never solve the environmental crisis and the conclusion is clear - capitalism must go. It must be replaced by a socialist society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. Only on the basis of common ownership can the aims of the ecologists be achieved. Only in a society in which goods are no longer produced for profit can the problems of pollution and adulteration be eliminated. Only in a society where goods are no longer produced for sale can high-quality, long-lasting goods be produced. Only, finally, on the basis of the common ownership of the earth’s resources can humans restore the balance which capitalism has upset between them and nature and live in harmony with their natural environment, live ecologically if you like

It is obvious to those in the World Socialist Movement that today human needs are far from being met on a world scale and that fairly rapid growth in the production of food, housing and other basic amenities would still be needed for some years even if production ceased to be governed by the economic laws of capitalism. However it should not be forgotten that a socialist "steady-state economy" would be a much more normal situation than an economy geared to blindly accumulating more and more means of production. After all, the only rational reason for accumulating means of production is to eventually be in a position to satisfy all reasonable consumption needs. Once the stock of means of production has reached this level, in a society with this goal, accumulation, or the further expansion of the stock of means of production, can stop and production levels be stabilised. Logically, this point would eventually be reached, since the consumption needs of a given population are finite. So if human society is to be able to organise its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.

In the 19th Century that supposed dry crusty old economist Karl Marx was writing on the declining fertility of soil under capitalism. From Capital, volume 1, on "Large-scale Industry and Agriculture":
“Capitalist production collects the population together in great centres, and causes the urban population to achieve an ever-growing preponderance. This has two results. On the one hand it concentrates the historical motive force of society; on the other hand, it disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e. it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil...But by destroying the circumstances surrounding that compels its systematic restoration as a regulative law of social production, and in a form adequate to the full development of the human race...All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress toward ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility...Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker.”

 Marx  emphasised  it was both necessary and possible to rationally govern human relationships with nature, but this was something "completely beyond the capabilities of bourgeois society." In a future society of freely associated producers, however, humans could govern their relations with nature via collective control, rather than through the blind power of market relations. There was a need for planning and measures to address the division of labor and population between town and country and for the restoration and improvement of the soil. Marx’s asserted that a concept of ecological sustainability was of very limited practical relevance to capitalist society as it was incapable of applying rational scientific methods and social planning due to the pressures of competition.

Land in capitalism is a commodity as Engels explains:
 “To make earth an object of huckstering — the earth which is our one and all, the first condition of our existence — was the last step towards making oneself an object of huckstering. It was and is to this very day an immorality surpassed only by the immorality of self-alienation. And the original appropriation — the monopolization of the earth by a few, the exclusion of the rest from that which is the condition of their life — yields nothing in immorality to the subsequent huckstering of the earth.” (Frederick Engels, Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy)

 As he also pointed out elsewhere this drive for profit can lead to ecological catastrophe:
“ What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertilizer for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees--what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock!”

Marx offers a vision of the nature of a future society in Capital, Volume 3:
“From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of particular individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the private property of one man in other men. Even an entire society, a nation or all simultaneously existing societies taken together are not owners of the earth, they are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations, as boni patres familias [good heads of households].”

Burgers from the Amazon

Marfrig, the world’s biggest supplier of burgers sourced meat from a farmer in the Amazon who had been found guilty of using deforested land, say reports, even as new figures reveal the beef industry’s deforestation risks.

Marfrig, a Brazilian meat company that has supplied McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food chains around the world, bought cattle from a farm that had been using deforested land earlier this year, according to a joint investigation by Repórter Brasil and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Marfrig has recently launched an environment “transition bond” to tap into the growing sustainable investment market.

Deadly Air Pollution Detected in the Womb

Air pollution particles have been found on the foetal side of placentas, indicating that unborn babies are directly exposed to the black carbon produced by motor traffic and fuel burning.

The research is the first study to show the placental barrier can be penetrated by particles breathed in by the mother. It found thousands of the tiny particles per cubic millimetre of tissue in every placenta analysed. There was an average of 20,000 nanoparticles per cubic millimetre in the placentas of mothers who lived near main roads. For those further away, the average was 10,000 per cubic millimeter.
The link between exposure to dirty air and increased miscarriages, premature births and low birth weights is well established. The research suggests the particles themselves may be the cause, not solely the inflammatory response the pollution produces in mothers.

Damage to foetuses has lifelong consequences and Prof Tim Nawrot at Hasselt University in Belgium, who led the study, said: “This is the most vulnerable period of life. All the organ systems are in development. For the protection of future generations, we have to reduce exposure.” He said governments had the responsibility of cutting air pollution but that people should avoid busy roads when possible.
A comprehensive global review concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body. Nanoparticles have also been found to cross the blood-brain barrier and billions have been found in the hearts of young city dwellers.

The WHO calls air pollution a “public health emergency” and recent analysis indicates 8.8 million early deaths each year, though scientists suspect even this may be “the tip of the iceberg”.

Business Comes First

The Global Strike for climate justice on 20th September will ask the important question of whether it will be people and planet first or profits over human needs and environmental protection, will our children and grandchildren live in a world of increasing misery.

 The problem of global warming can clearly be laid at the feet of global capitalism and if people are not receptive to changing the social system we live under then they too are denialists. Capitalism is a market system and nothing can change that. To produce the things that people need in an acceptable and ecologically benign manner presupposes that society as a whole must be in a position to control production and direct its purposes. This cannot be done in a society where the means of production are owned and controlled by the privileged few and governed by the blind economic laws which impose their own priorities.  Production for the market is an expression of the fact that the means of production and therefore the products are owned not by all the members of a society in common but by individuals or groups such as corporations. 

Continued ravaging of the Earth for short-term growth can only end in social and ecological collapse. Humanity must embrace a steady state economy – whereby the increment of natural capital harvested is replenished annually and that can only be achieved by establishing socialism – the promotion and protection of the human family. With socialism we choose to live more simply, share more with others, restore ecosystems, grow more food, end fossil fuels, and embrace social justice and satisfy the needs of all. A better life than endless consumption that kills ourselves and others is possible. Capitalism is destroying the planet. Only revolution can save the planet. Only the complete overturning and elimination of capitalism makes it possible to create a society in which we could actually live as the stewards and guardians rather than the plunderers of nature. It is our only chance of achieving a truly sustainable society—and restoring what can be restored of Earth’s ecosystems. What are you doing -- each and every day -- to help bring down this global system of oppression and exploitation before there’s nothing left? How much time do you believe we have?

We, humans, are part of nature, not external to it. We are one with nature; we must nurture it if it is to sustain us. We are a sharing economy. We have always shared. Humanity would never have survived unless we practiced sharing at a personal and communal basis. We shared common lands with our neighbours and communities just as today share the roads. Mutual aid is an evolutionary trait that anthropologists have long recognised as intrinsic to our essential nature. It remains a fact that the sharing economy has always been with us in one form or another and sharing has forever played its part in our everyday lives. People are naturally social and creative and it drives us to innovate. And the flexibility of human behaviour, such as our capacity for cooperation and adaptation, allows us to envisage and create a world beyond the current economic and political models many regards as unchangeable.

Humanity is now in a position and has been for some time, to supply, in a sustainable way the needs of the population. The means of production and the knowledge at its disposal are more than sufficient to enable this to be done. The problem is capitalism. Common ownership on a world scale means that there will be no property or territorial rights over any part of the planet or over any of the technology. The Earth and its resources will not belong to anyone. They would simply be there to be used in accordance with democratically-decided rules and procedures. We can imagine the local community being the basic unit of such arrangements. People could elect a local council to co-ordinate and administer local affairs. Delegates could be sent to regional councils to decide matters concerning a wider area, and so on. Possibly a world council would be the best way to deal with matters on a world scale (for instance, the supply of scarce minerals, the protection of the biosphere, the use of the oceans, and space research). On the basis of common ownership and democratic control, the world-wide network of productive and administrative units can be geared to meeting human needs. This need not involve the organisation of a bureaucratic world planning authority. Instead, we could set up production and distribution mechanisms at different levels to respond flexibly to demands communicated to them.

In a society oriented to meeting needs, the concept of profits would be meaningless, while the imperative to ‘growth’ would disappear. Instead, after an initial period of increase in useful production to provide the whole world’s population with basic amenities, production can be expected to reach a level sufficient to provide for people’s current needs and the future viability of their society. A sustainable relationship with the rest of nature could be achieved. Needs on a world scale could be in balance with the capacity of the biosphere to renew itself after supplying them. As the only life-form that can act in a way conscious of the wider impact it can have on other species and on the planet as a whole, humans have the potential to act as planet’s ‘brain’, consciously regulating its function in the interest of present and future generations.  But before we can hope to play this role we must first integrate our own activities into a sustainable natural cycle on a planetary scale. This we can do only within the framework of a world socialist society in which the Earth and all its natural and material resources have become the common heritage of all humanity.

Socialists work for a revolution in society from world capitalism to world socialism. The revolution we want is a social revolution that will change the basis of society from the present monopoly of productive resources by rich individuals, corporations, and states into one where the Earth and its resources belong to none but will have become the common heritage of all humanity. This revolution can only be carried out democratically by the majority class in society, those forced to work for a wage or a salary in order to get a living, with a view to freeing themselves from exploitation for profit and from the restrictions and problems that the capitalist profit system imposes on them. 

At the same time, socialists understand that such a revolution has also to achieve a sustainable relationship between human society and the rest of nature. Together we can be architects of the future rather than victims of the present.