Thursday, May 06, 2021

The time is right now

 The World is heading for an unparalleled climate catastrophe unless  nations agree drastic cuts in CO2 emissions at the COP conference in Glasgow. Even if all the current promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions are honoured, the world will still see global temperatures rise by an average 2.4 C.

The World Socialist Movement (WSM) says very clearly that a sustainable relationship with the rest of nature that is in balance and with the capacity of the biosphere to renew itself will only be possible when socialism is established . 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.

The underlying principle is that the productive system as a whole should be sustainable for the rest of nature. In other words, what humans take from nature, the amount and the rhythm at which they do so, as well as the way they use these materials and dispose of them after use, should all be done in such a way as to leave nature in a position to go on supplying and reabsorbing the required materials for use.

In the long run this implies stable or only slowly rising consumption and production levels. A society in which production, consumption and population levels are stable has been called a "steady-state economy" where production would be geared simply to meeting needs and to replacing and repairing the equipment of the means of production.

The WSM explains once more that the only feasible alternative is to address the problem and that problem is Capitalism. The destructive nature of modern production has developed as an integral part of capitalism. Because we live in a competitive, profit-motivated system , enterprises come under an irresistible pressure to use the cheapest and most labour efficient methods. There is no choice about this. Companies simply have to go for low cost options and cannot afford to worry about the ecological consequences of this. To choose high cost options would be to commit economic suicide. Under capitalism the production and distribution of goods takes place - and can only take place - according to the economic laws which govern the profitable circulation of capital. These laws are of an absolutely compelling nature. What this means is that production methods cannot be chosen on their merits, as being environmentally friendly.

The World Socialist Movement holds that only socialism can set up the relationships of cooperation, the freedom and the rational control over our affairs which can get us out of the serious mess we’re in. For all their good intentions, and for all their apparent radicalism, the policies of the environmental experts such as the esteemed professor are impractical because they stand no chance of establishing the kind of world they want to see. The obvious, and only practical, way forward is to get rid of the whole insane capitalist structure.

In socialism we would not be bound to use the most labour efficient methods of production. We would be free to select our methods in accordance with a wide range of socially desirable criteria, in particular the vital need to protect the environment. It wouldn’t matter if ecologically benign methods of producing energy required more allocations of labour than destructive methods as we wouldn’t be producing commodities which have to compete in price for sales in the market. We’d be free of all that. A “steady-state”, eventual "zero-growth" society is something we should aim at. What it means is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. You achieve this “steady state” and you don’t go on expanding production. This would be the opposite of cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources.

“The earth can no longer be owned; it must be shared. Its fruits, including those produced by technology and labour, can no longer be expropriated by the few; they must be rendered available to all on the basis of need. Power, no less than material things, must be freed from the control of the elites; it must be redistributed in a form that renders its use participatory.” - Murray Bookchin

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