The week of September 20 to 27, 2019 will be remembered as a starting point. This new international movement in defence of the planet is the political breaking out of an issue that capitalism cannot digest. With around 6000 protests in 160 countries and on every continent, this new environmentalist internationalism ushers in a new phase of the struggle in defence of the planet and the people who live on it.
It took humankind several thousand years to socially adapt to the planet´s climatic conditions. It is calculated that the last great ice age ended over 10 thousand years ago, and since then, until just over 100 years ago, the temperature had stabilized at an average of 15ºC. That meant regularity, a relative stability and therefore a material base of conditions for the social development of humankind on Earth. This is the period of civilizing development that arrived at capitalism, passing through various formations: primitive communism, Asiatic societies, slavery, feudalism and capitalism with the great revolutions of the XVII-XVIII centuries. What is indisputable with the most serious statistics is that, parallel to the predominance of oil in energy production, a phenomenon of climate alteration known as “global warming” emerged and consolidated. This change, which was initially slow and accelerated in the last 40 years, has had the consequence of modifying living conditions on the planet. One of the authors of the“rise of the sea level chapter of the fourth report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Anders Levermann, summarizes the first threat saying that “the Antarctic ice shelf is melting; it produces a thermal dilation of the water mass and its volume grows; thawing of glaciers on mountains and the Greenland ice cap. With that alone, the risk of the rise of ocean water levels endangers millions of people”. We must remember that 10 million people in Egypt live less than a meter over the sea level, as do 15 million in Bangladesh, around 30 million in India and China, around 20 million in Vietnam. That is without taking into account the cities that are built on the coasts: London, New York, San Francisco. On top of this, there is desertification, acidification of the seas and other bodies of water, the increase of extreme climatic events and therefore, serious social consequences. We are facing the dynamic of a true catastrophe.
An urgent ideological war
The so called real power of capitalism is worried. The social debate about the future of the planet is on the agenda. This obliges them to intervene with their false ideologies to distract, confuse and neutralize the radicalization of people’s conscience on this issue. Schematically, the more influential concepts are:
- Climate change denial: this ideology is represented by Trump, Bolsonaro and the most reactionary right-wing governments. They represent the oil corporations, banks and extractivist corporations. Their thesis claims that “climate change is a natural phenomenon and that people who reject the oil industry oppose development and economic growth”. Although they do not have a direct influence on the mobilized youth (actually, it is the opposite), this is the line with which they act through the union bureaucracy in the workers’ movement.
- “Green capitalism”: this policy is promoted by Merkel, the green parties, the II International, the US Democrats and people like Macron. They basically propose that the State should agree with capitalist companies on a process of “gradual reforms” that slowly convert the current energy system into a clean and renewable one, with economic stimuli and “tax breaks” for those who pollute least. In the end, turning “ecology” into a business under the capitalist laws of the market.
- “Environmental neo-Keynesianism”: this vision, promoted by Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and other referents of the “Democratic left” and the DSA of the United States, proposes a process of energetic reconversion funded by state subsidies for capitalist corporations. This means a “pact” of reconversion with the transnationals in a term of ten years that obviously does not question the private propriety of the main pillars of energetic production and distribution. Writer and activist Naomi Klein promotes this perspective as well.
- The current of “individual guilt”: the propaganda of polluting corporations and governments, promote the false ideology that focus responsibility for socio-environmental degradation on people and their individual “lifestyle and consumption habits”. So the responsibility for the lack of water would be solved with “shorter showers” or “properly closing the faucet” (not stopping the absurd and humongous use of water by open air mining); or global warming is caused by the multiplication of the use of cars as an “individual responsibility” and not because of the lobby of the oil and auto companies; claiming that replacing everything with bicycles and variants of that style would be a solution. On this issue, currents that defend “degrowth” have gained influence, proposing “personal austerity” as a strategy. In each case, the objective is to cover up the systemic responsibilities of capitalism.
- Left “developmentalism or productivism”: we also have controversies with Marxist currents that simply place “workers’ control” as a solution without questioning the development of capitalist “destructive forces” at this stage. There are branches of capitalist production that have no positive social purpose, such as polluting open air mining, fracking or agribusiness, and therefore, beyond the social class that manages it, they are polluting and harmful per se without any social benefits. This is concrete. Therefore, it is key to break with the “developmentalist” taboo and propose eliminating them. We must also delimitate ourselves from the nefarious experience of Stalinist “bureaucratic developmentalism” in the USSR that, without direct democracy in workers´ production planning, usurped by the governing clique, imposed a logic of production and consumption disassociated from real social needs and with incredible contaminating consequences.
- “NGOism” and the pressure on current governments: this orientation is dominant in the organizations at the head of the week of 20 to 27. It is the “Greta program” and that is to “convince” the capitalist state powers of the world to cause a change in socio-environmental policy and take radical measures of transition in the next 10 or 20 years.
A final warning: the positive media coverage of Swedish student Greta Thunberg and the emergence of small groups of “independent” activism are used as in our country a cover for organizations like the Frente de Todos of Alberto Fernandez, to block the intervention of forces like the MST and the Ecosocialist Network. They want to shackle the process and keep it under control, in the orbit of the “pressure of civil society through democratic institutions”. A dead end.
Change the system, not the climate
Our proposal is clear: there are no conditions for solving the most pressing issues of the relationship between humankind and nature today without taking measures that question the logic of the capitalist system. Some of our programmatic keys are:
- Declaring a socio-environmental emergency in our countries.
- An energetic transition towards clean and renewable energies, based on the expropriation of hydrocarbon industries under workers’ control.
- The prohibition of fracking, agribusiness, mega-mining and urban cementation for speculation.
- A different food model, based on agro-ecological parameters, without transgenic crops or agrotoxic chemicals.
- Public services as social rights. Nationalization of the privatized companies.
- A better public health and education system based on a strengthening of the state budget, based on the non-payment of the external debt to the IMF.
- Distribution of work hours among those who can work. The massive incorporation of technology, not to replace people with machines, but to alleviate the collective workload.
- Elimination of the packaging industry and the reduction of waste based on separation at source, recycling and socio-environmental education at all school levels.
- Prohibition of the capitalist advertisement industry, replacing it with the social right to public information. General democratization of the mass media.
- Generating referendums and similar mechanisms for the people to decide on every debate about developing or not developing certain industries that can contaminate.
- A budget for the environmental remediation and preservation of species based on the expropriation of the assets of polluting companies.
- For a different model of production, distribution and consumption based on the democratic planning of the real social needs of the working majority.