“Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.” - Communist Manifesto
COP26 has now formally begun. The Socialist Party comes to Glasgow with no great expectations nor hopes that it will offer any permanent solutions. We hold that the reason behind the politicians' inability to act on environmental issues is their continued adherence to the capitalist economic system. Despite many fine words spoken and written, COP26 will result in little difference to the world’s worsening environmental condition. COP26 will not provide genuine solutions but merely stop-gap measures to plug the breaches in capitalism, a fresh new coat of paint upon a corroding world. Capitalist political parties are locked into the logic of the market – they cannot turn their rhetoric on the environment into policies that can prevent the destruction of the planet.
The poorest people on the planet are paying the highest price for the inaction of the politicians. Finding environmental answers to climate change based on free-market mechanisms or state intervention has proven ineffectual. The utter failure of world leaders to take action on climate change is rooted in an economic system that can only see the natural world as a source of materials for the production process, or a land-fill for its waste. The socialist critique of capitalism acknowledges its inherent environmental destructiveness. The World Socialist Movement must campaign without concession or compromise, without condescension, without forlorn hope or false illusions, and without any dogmatism. Ours is a worldwide fight to protect communities and the planet from capitalism’s march towards environmental catastrophe.
Our task remains aspirational, to inspire others. Many in the environmentalist movement are genuinely disapproving of the destructive way capitalism functions and are seeking an alternative. However, some critics of capitalist economics hold a dismissive attitude towards socialism. Marx and Engels are often depicted as being “out of date” because they wrote more than a century ago. What isn’t grasped about their descriptions of early capitalism is even more relevant today it encompasses virtually the whole world.
We wish to show that ignoring socialist ideas is mistaken and misguided. Our future can only be based on a steady-state, zero-growth economy that provides for need rather than capital accumulation, an impossibility under a system based on a relentless drive for profits by competition. Capitalism has created world markets and world industries. Multinational corporations can only survive in competition with one another through expansion and growth. We cannot ward off the dangers climate change poses to the whole of humanity by trying to do as little as possible. If we wish to avoid the vast consequences upon the very conditions for human life, we have to dismantle the system. We need a revolution to preserve what is worth having.
Climate change will exacerbate existing tensions around the world. Exactly how this will play out is not yet clear. However, climate change and its implications for security are major preoccupations of many nations’ military. Having identified the potential social and economic impact of climate change, governments are preparing to adapt their military forces to deal with so-called “resource wars” and the movement of millions of displaced refugees.
The only solution for the World Socialist Movement is to find ways to raise and popularise our case for socialism. We may not instantly win large numbers of new friends, but we might forestall the strengthening of a potential enemy. In peace, as in war, your masters will make to order, as friends or foes, workers of other lands so to divide you. The world over, irrespective of geographical boundaries, poverty is the lot of working people. The answer is world socialism, the creation of the cooperative commonwealth.