Saturday, February 16, 2019

Yes, Greta, change is necessary but radical change (2019)

From the February 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 5 December 2018 social and print media published news of a press conference at the United Nation’s COP24 climate change conference held in Katowice, Poland. The news and a short video rapidly became viral on social media with large viewership and shares. The centre of attraction was a brave and articulate young girl, Greta Thunberg, aged just 15, a young climate activist from Sweden. Sitting by the side of the UN General Secretary, she uttered some rousing truths which at the first instance made us delighted. She blamed all political leaders of past and present generations for the catastrophic climate changes which have brought the whole human civilisation and nature that surrounds us to the brink of disaster. We could only congratulate her courageous words, ‘We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us, they ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.’

Yes, we understand that a change is necessary. A radical change is essential in our thinking, leading to a radical change in our socio-economic system to save the Earth, life and human civilisations. But for that, we have to replace the existing profit-based, exploitative, oppressive, manipulative, disruptive and dehumanising capitalist society with our much-awaited socialist society. A worldwide association of humans irrespective of nationalities, race, ethnicity and sex has to be organised, which will function on the basis of participatory democratic principles. The socialist, resource-based sustainable economy will produce things as per social needs with democratic control over the means of production and distribution. Preserving ecological balance is only possible in a world socialist society.

The most serious barrier is the prevailing capitalist mode of production. It’s the responsibility of the working class, the creator and sustainer of human civilisation, to protect it by establishing world socialism democratically with the force of our immense majority. But our valiant young girl’s remedial prescription also made us apprehensive. Before the commencement of the summit, as a mode of protest, she has been organising her schoolmates for a school strike on every Friday and sitting in a demonstration outside the Swedish parliament.

The demand of her climate movement is to compel the Swedish government to implement the Paris agreement to reduce carbon emissions to check global warming within a safe range. Till then she will continue to sit and demonstrate in front of the parliament with her schoolmates weekly on a specified day. She also made an appeal to children all over the world to sit and demonstrate in front of their national parliaments to make people aware of the dangers of climate changes. This is no doubt a praiseworthy initiative but we would like to express our concern that she might be used by the capitalist class to channel people’s anguish into a reformist blind alley.

In the first week of October 2018, the United Nation had released an alarming report that we have only twelve years left to prevent a catastrophic climate change that would wreak havoc on the world population and environment. But are the climate changes sudden? Scientists have been warning world leaders from 1977 about the threat, when climate change was not even talked about much. But the corporate businesses that are responsible for most of the world carbon emissions successfully ran a campaign to suppress the climate facts and worked to keep the United States from signing the Kyoto protocol, which helped China and India, two other giant emitters of greenhouse gas, to avoid signing.

The capitalist propaganda machines are spreading the illusion that a ‘carbon tax’ on emissions will reduce the use of fossil fuels and encourage entrepreneurs to use clean energy, but this is not going to work. As long as capitalism persists, the logic of the market economy is to make money even at the cost of natural calamities.

The exact same class which is actively cranking up the global thermostat that threatens to inundate 20 percent of the global population is actually controlling the United Nations and parliaments of different nations. So we think we, the working class, should expect nothing from the ruling minority capitalist class, but should rapidly organise ourselves into a political party of our own on a global basis with the aim of electing MPs as mandated socialist delegates to take over the parliaments and pronounce: annulment of all property and territorial rights whereby all that is on and in the Earth will become the common heritage of the whole of humanity. This will help clear away obstacles for the working class movement as a whole and usher humanity into the realm of freedom towards world socialism.
Partha Pratik Mukherjee


Rear View: More migrant misery (2016)

The Rear View Column from the August 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

More migrant misery
War and want have forced millions of our class to move. Those with the means, a minority, represent a market for smugglers. There is no guarantee that the dreamed of refuge will ever be reached, but the smugglers insist on payment and for them blood is an acceptable currency. ‘Migrants who are unable to pay people smugglers for their journey from Africa to Europe are killed for their organs, a former smuggler has said. Nuredein Wehabrebi Atta, who has been sentenced to five years in prison for his involvement in moving migrants, told Italian police that migrants who couldn’t pay for journeys across the Mediterranean were sold for €15,000 to groups, particularly Egyptians, who are equipped for harvesting organs’ (independendent.co.uk, 5 July). Avoiding this nightmare, those reaching Europe are greeted with hastily erected barriers and, quite possibly, hate in the form of Pegida, for example. Tatjana Festerling, the group’s erstwhile leader, said of asylum seekers, ‘if they keep crossing the border and you cannot arrest them, shoot them.’ Apparently, on ‘her Facebook page, Festerling bragged about spending an entire day with the Bulgarian Military Veterans Union a paramilitary group of vigilantes who patrol the border searching for illegal immigrants. Accompanying her was Edwin Wagensveld, a leader of a Dutch offshoot of Pegida’ (neweurope.eu, 7 July).


Going nowhere
‘Can religion be a positive force for social change?’ asks Manini Sheker (opendemocracy.net, 5 July). No, but she and those behind the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky disagree. This colossal waste of time, talent and energy ‘will be a life-size reminder, with a 510-foot-long Ark as its centerpiece, to the truth of God’s Word and His involvement in the affairs of humanity. We will powerfully show that, just as the account of Noah’s flood did actually happen, so did the rest of what we read in the scriptures – especially the gospel message preached by Christ in the New Testament. We hope to inspire a return to and a respect for the Bible as relevant for our culture today’ (foxnews.com, 6 July). Ken Ham or Neil deGrasse Tyson? Superstition or scientism? Neither will bring about meaningful social change, though socialists can to an extent empathise with Tyson and suspect that one too many encounters with the-pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die crowd contributed to the genesis of a recent tweet in which he proposed a country of #Rationalia, where ‘all policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.’


Stupefying silence
Silence is no way to respond to the mass murder of millions in the Somme 100 years ago or any of capitalism’s wars, past or present. According to former diplomat Craig Murray, ‘Blair is still a creature of absolute self-serving slime’. But it is the system he defends which should be the focus of our attention. Socialists do not need millions of words to explain that capitalism is the cause of war and want in the world, something which the multi-volume Chilcot report naturally omitted. This is not to say however that it does not contain evidence we can use when making our case. ‘The US and British governments fought bitterly over control of Iraq’s oil following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Chilcot papers show. Tony Blair seemed more concerned than the Americans about any invasion being seen by critics as a war for oil, telling them it would be very damaging if the two countries were seen to grab Iraq’s oil. But Sir David Manning, foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair, told Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser, in Washington on 9 December 2002 that Britain still wanted more of the spoils. “It would be inappropriate for HMG [Her Majesty’s government] to enter into discussions about any future carve-up of the Iraqi oil industry,” he said. “Nonetheless it is essential that our [British] companies are given access to a level playing field in this and other sectors.” UK government officials called in a team from BP for a briefing about the prospects for the Iraq energy sector on 23 January 2003, two months before the invasion, which ended in May’ (theguardian.com, 7 July). BP’s reaction? No comment!