Editorial from the April 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
It is now widely agreed that life should be organised in ways that protect the environment. This is a question of the natural conditions on which all our lives depend so it is a matter of basic self-interest. How, then, do we do it? At least two powers of action are required. We need to be able to control production and we need to co-operate with each other. Socialism would give us these powers.
With common ownership the planet will be held in common by all people and on this basis democratic decisions about how best to organise life in non-destructive ways could be freely made. There would be no economic constraints preventing us from using ecologically-sound methods. We would carry out the work through direct co-operation.
Many thousands in the Green movement might agree that this would be a desirable way to live but, tragically, at the same time they imagine that such a world can be achieved through reforms of the market system. This is impossible. The capitalist system has destructive features which cannot be removed through reform.
How is it possible for us to choose non-destructive production methods when these are in the hands of corporations which must place profit before needs? How is it possible for us to co-operate when we are dominated by economic competition? How is it possible to build a stable way of life, a non-growth system in balance with nature, while retaining a market system which is driven by a relentless pressure to renew its capacity for sales at a profit? Capitalism is primarily a system of capital accumulation and with any faltering of this anti-social aim it breaks down in crisis and a worsening of all social conditions.
The Green movement must face up to these questions which, if they ever gained political power, would surely haunt their term of office and all their efforts would break down in failure and disillusion. In these circumstances the cause of ecology would be set back for generations. The false belief that problems can be solved by reforming the market system has led to the death of every decent hope for humanity throughout the entire century.
To avoid such a disastrous outcome we urge all those who wish for a world organised solely for needs— which includes the urgent need to protect the environment—to join the work of establishing socialism. It is the only sure and practical way forward.