Friday, September 27, 2019

The end of capitalism or the end of civilisation – your choice

For some, the second wave of climate strikes was an anti-climax. Instead of the millions who became involved on the 20th, just hundreds of thousands took part on the 27th. Yet the climate strikes are still a sign of the growing awareness and anger of the severity and scale of the climate crisis among people around the world.

The Socialist Party's ecological case is that only world socialism, a society without nations and borders will humanity be able to really begin to remedy the damage that has been done to the environment by capitalism. Mankind cannot exist without intervening in nature and it is true that some communities ended up destroying their civilisation by degrading their soil by their farming methods. The clear present and future danger is obvious. No long-term solutions are available under the capitalist system. The climate crisis is not a crisis caused by human activity, as some would have it, but one resulting from capitalist production. Global warming represents the ultimate failure of the profit system.

The climate activists are to be commended for their concern about our planet's many eco-systems but they lack the realisation that the cause of the global warming emergency is capitalism and the cure is its abolition. Regardless of the numbers of individuals changing their lifestyle, it has a negligible effect on the environment unless we all can get rid of capitalism. Capitalism does not produce things to satisfy human needs. It produces “commodities” to be sold in order to make a profit for the capitalists. The “cap-and-trade” system sets emissions limits on corporations, but allow those producing less than the maximum to sell the difference as a carbon credit to other corporations wishing to pollute more than allowed. Cap-and-trade therefore represents the commodifying and financialisation of carbon emissions, and would doubtless give rise to a large carbon securities and derivatives market. All manner of environmental and economic perversions will result from the packaging of carbon credits into securities. Corporations would be able to buy emissions capacity not only in the form of permits unused by other companies, but also in the form of carbon offsets, credits created by projects which ostensibly reduce atmospheric carbon.

The more commodities that are produced and sold, the more profit. Even CO2 emissions have been turned into commodities to be traded on financial markets. Anyone who seriously wants to end this climate crisis has no choice but to get rid of capitalism. Solutions that name capitalism as the enemy aren’t popular with politicians.

It is the poorest parts of the world which will suffer disproportionately from climate change and it is also true that the poorest people within any given country will suffer more than the rich. Climate change will exacerbate existing inequalities within the world system. The climate crisis presents an unprecedented crossroads for all humanity and presents an enormous opportunity for profound change. Global warming is an issue of mass struggle. The inability of capitalism to manage the economy sustainably or in the general interest has never been clearer, just as the relevance and necessity of socialism is increasingly evident. Capitalism cannot halt its march to destruction.

There is a bleak prospect for effective action to curb carbon emissions and it is all the more frustrating that the solutions and actions to the climate crisis are simple and in principle relatively easy to achieve. The real question is can such measures are implemented before it is too late? Those who dominate society today, government and CEOs will not close the stable doors until after the horse has bolted. To survive and expand as profit-seeking they will resist what fundamentally threatens their current basis of profit and power. The struggle over climate change is about wresting privilege and wealth out of the hands of those who have it now. There is the desperate need for a society run in a fundamentally different and democratic way, one in which not profit but the needs of people and the future of the planet we live on are at the heart of all action and policy. Such a transformation is called socialism. It is a course of action which requires to be international in practice. Sadly, in the environment campaign, not everyone seeks to end capitalism and to establish socialism. Partial reforms can be fought for and sometimes won, but such struggles will pit the working people against powerful capitalist interests. These took place within capitalism; some can even be seen as strengthening capitalism. We’re left to assume that capitalism in some form will survive. Nevertheless, campaigns against global warming contain within them the germ of the solution to the problem of climate change – the fundamental transformation of society. Common ownership and cooperative administration of our productive systems is what we have to fight and build for.

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