Thursday, May 7, 2015

Eco-capitalism is Impossible (2015)

From the May 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 9 March the Socialist Party and Green Party candidates for Swansea West, Brian Johnson and Ashley Wakeling, met in debate. Here is an extract from what our candidate said.

The Greens' arguments and their policies are based on the assumption that under capitalism political parties in government can do what they like, and make a positive difference for the whole of society. The motivation is good, but unfortunately, the assumption is false. Capitalism is not open to manipulation so that it benefits the majority; it's a system that is very tightly structured to benefit only the wealthy few.

Put simply, support for the Greens means not only ignoring market forces but also ignoring an obvious contradiction in their argument. The contradiction is this: with market forces essentially causing and creating a sick society how can you realistically expect those self-same forces to solve it by proposing a form of eco-capitalism?

However, the Greens have chosen to ignore this and continually assert that they can make the market system a nicer kind of capitalism. But capitalism will still be capitalism, with no fundamental change in how we live and how we could live as it will be business as usual.

We'll still be faced with the same contradiction of poverty amongst plenty, the same issues and problems related to war, the same lame excuses that are offered that the system itself is fine; it's just those greedy bankers, or the immigrants, or dictators, or tax dodgers taking advantage of tax havens; or those who insist on playing by their own rules instead of fulfilling international agreements and obligations, etc.

Capitalism is a class-divided society driven by the imperative for those who own and control the means of wealth production to make a profit. It can only function as a profit system in the interest of those who live off profits.To advocate transforming the capitalist economy on the basis of offering a reformist strategy so that “it works for the common good” which the Green Party suggests is precisely what cannot be done. It's going to take a revolution to do that.

Socialists are much more aware of what members of the working class are up against and have no intention of misleading them by suggesting that capitalism can be controlled or that a string of green reforms will be of lasting benefit.

Socialism has been possible for a very long time; the main thing holding it back has been those who have thought, after all the accumulated experience, that something could be done to improve capitalism.

Capitalism is the cause of a range of environmental issues the world is facing, but can a socialist alternative resolve these issues? Crucially, would a socialist alternative have to curtail growth or could it administer an environmentally sustainable version of growth?

Marx considered that plenty was a necessary condition for the coming of a fully developed socialist society. Whilst many argue that removing want will require growth, most Greens argue that any growth is unsustainable.

Socialists put the argument round the other way: that it is impossible to tackle environmental problems without effective global planning and cooperation, a prerequisite for which is eliminating the conflicts that result from scarcity. Socialist contend that the growth needed to remove scarcity can be green, but only if organised in the context of a democratically planned socialist economy. One where production and distribution is based on human need and not markets and profits, where buying and selling is abolished and with them consumerism and all its associated waste, where any economic growth can be constantly assessed for the impact it will have on nature and society.

Socialists further argue that not only is pollution and environmental destruction caused by the profit system but also that it is the science of ecology that explains the processes by which pollution and environmental destruction resulted from releasing waste substances into the rest of nature at a rate and in amounts that it cannot cope with; that science and technology, far from causing the problem, provide the knowledge and techniques that can be used to solve it given the right social and economic framework; and, last but not least, that this framework is a less centralised society that produces to meet human needs not for profit, which could only be done in a stateless, moneyless, communist society.
Brian Johnson