Global warming was part of the agenda of the 2018 G20 summit in Argentina. Weeks later, the COP24 (the UN conference on climate) in Poland tailored its work according to the needs of capital, not of the social and ecological crisis. In our continent, alarms related to the consequences of the extractivist economy on human health are multiplying: diseases linked to food and agribusiness, water resources polluted by large-scale mining and urban cementing that literally suffocates. Our response to this situation.
Socialists must add the ecological agenda to our political platform. Transforming the world, socially, economically and politically emancipating humanity from capitalism, includes reversing the disastrous heritage this system of production is building up. The warning signs are there, and understanding the scale of the problem is key. The latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2018) was prepared for the Poland COP24 summit. The scientists confirm disturbing data in these documents:
- A global warming of 1.5 Cº would have dire consequences that would be hard to mitigate in social terms: the displacement of millions of people, droughts, unbearable heat and floods caused by excessive rain.
- The goal of the previous summit, in Paris, was to reduce global warming to below that number. This already seems hard to achieve, almost utopian considering the complete absence of urgent measures and radical change.
- The biggest threat is undoubtedly the feared retreat of the gigantic Thwaites and Tottenen glaciers in Antarctica: this alone could raise sea levels around four meters.
The report uses the slogan “each ton of CO2 matters”. This is effectively the case. Take the impact of imperialist militarism, for instance. The US arms industry sends around 80 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Add the 70 million tons generated by the US Defense Department, plus the emissions of its hundreds of military bases in other countries. The polluters that met in Poland have again behaved as witch doctor apprentices. Against the urgency of taking measures to abandon the current hydrocarbon based energy matrix, they approved a declaration that continues to step back even from the previous minimal compromises. The way out of the environmental crisis is political and it is anticapitalist. This is the truth of the matter. And time is of the essence.
Capitalism, an irreversible path off a cliff´s edge
This system doesn’t produce socially necessary goods, it produces values, to maximize the profits of the owners. These fight against each other in a ruthless competition to increase work productivity. In order to achieve this, they use increasingly advanced technology. Therefore, producing for production´s sake (which implies consuming for the sake of consumption) is not an incidental effect of capitalism, but an inherent trait. This method of production requires accumulation and private hoarding. In his most well known book, The Theory of Economic Development, the bourgeois economist Joseph Schumpeter explained: “Capitalism without hoarding is a contradiction of the very terms”. Marx explained that “the only limit of capital is capital itself”. By writing this, he meant that capital, not as “a bunch of money”, but as a social relationship that implies that an amount of money transforms into more money thanks to the extraction of the surplus generated by unpaid work, derives in the “exploitation of its two main sources of profit: the workforce and nature”. So a first conclusion is that, within the framework of the current world economy, there’s no way out to the impending catastrophe.
Stalinist productivism, a disaster.
When it comes to the ecological debate, Marxism is attacked from the left and the right (ideologically speaking). The indefensible balance sheet of the experience of “real socialism” in the XX century is used: the bureaucratic deviation of the USSR and Eastern Europe. Detailing the ecological monstrosities of this distortion would make this article too long:
The draining of the Aral sea by the building of a 500 km long irrigation canal that caused a catastrophe in the region.
The 1980 nuclear explosion in Chernobyl.
Eastern Europe and Czechoslovakia emitted more CO2 per capita than the central capitalist countries.
The disasters of “real socialism” can only be explained as a consequence of the Stalinist bureaucratic counter-revolution. State productivism was the result of a scheme of bonuses for the bosses of nationalized companies to stimulate them into exceeding the goals of the productive plan and achieving a GDP higher than the US. Driven by this economic motivation, those managers wasted the maximum amount of materials and energy per unit of production. Product quality didn’t matter, since consumers had no alternatives, nor the possibility of debating the environmental and social effects of a productive system that wasn’t under social control. However, what is important to emphasize in defense of our proposal is that, while unsustainable productivism is intrinsic to capitalism, the disastrous derivations of “real socialism” are not a consequence of socialism itself, but of its Stalinist, bureaucratic and distorted negation. This thesis is key in the struggle between post-capitalist perspectives.
Changing all the rules: our socialist model
In response to the ecological crisis, our program is neither green capitalism nor left productivism: it’s an ecosocialist transitional program. It implies assuming that the relationship between the mode of production/consumption and nature is metabolic, and managing under a non-capitalist logic. That is, the logic of the 99%, of producing and consuming based on a democratic plannification of what is socially necessary; not the logic of the 1%, consisting of producing exchange values for private benefit and hoarding. This point of reference redirects everything: energy production, food production, the use of public space. This program is also articulated with a global proposal of dismantling the capitalist superstructure: patriarchy, for example, and the political casts, replaced by a political system based on the mobilization and participation of the social majority, a real workers´ democracy. This also includes dismantling of the repressive apparatus that protects private property. This means that our global project integrates ecosocialism as a transitional and revolutionary answer to the environmental catastrophe, while offering measures to reorganize everything. Our project and identity, is anticapitalist, socialist, feminist, anti-bureaucratic and -when it comes to the environment- ecosocialist. Of course, as in any unequal revolutionary process, we’ll have to assume the tensions and contradictions of a post-capitalist and anti-imperialist project in semi-colonies such as many Latin American countries. The demands of the class struggle and revolutionary strategy will determine the rhythm of the application of our integral program at an international level. This is our contribution to the discussion in the vanguard and the left.