Time is not on our side.
COP26 is almost upon us and already we have had a flurry of advance statements and declarations. In November we can expect a multitude of government departments, industry bodies, scientific committees, NGOs and think-tanks plus myriad grassroot pressure groups and political organisations, offering up arguments to support their solutions. The Socialist Party, too, will be in attendance at Glasgow, presenting our own unique analysis that only a revolutionary transformation of society and the ending of the capitalist system can offer humanity the opportunity to proceed along the path of social evolution towards a better world for all.
Thousands of people will bring all sorts of ideas to Glasgow. We will for our part give the socialist vision. We will expose the blind irrationality of the capitalist market, with its short-sighted profit-and-loss accounting. We will try to explain that climate change crises are not aberrations but are an inevitable consequence of the capitalist system. We say society’s prosperity and the planet’s well-being can only be guaranteed by world socialism. We perceive a dark future when we witness the wilful burning of the Amazon rainforest in the hunger for profit.
One way or another, COP26 will be decisive for the fate of humanity. Unless greenhouse gases are swiftly and drastically curbed the result could be environmental catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale.
Capitalism has inflicted incalculable harm on the inhabitants of the earth. Tragically, the future could be even worse for a simple reason: capitalism’s destructive power, driven by its inner logic to expand, is doing irreversible damage to life in all its forms all around the planet. Rosa Luxemburg famously said that humanity had a choice, ‘socialism or barbarism.’ Given the climate crisis, her warning has even more meaning. Daily we hear of species extinction, global warming, resource depletion, deforestation, desertification, on and on to the point where we have almost become accustomed to impending catastrophe. Our planet cannot indefinitely absorb the impact of profit-driven, growth-without-limits capitalism. Unless we change this, we will reach the point where the harm becomes irreversible. Yet even the most modest environmental reforms are resisted by sections of the capitalist class. The goal of the big corporations is to secure the greatest possible profits for their super-rich owners — regardless of the consequences for the planet and its people. This makes the establishment of a socialist society all the more imperative.
We are dealing with the problem of an outmoded and unnecessary economic system dominated by a class whose primary purpose is to maximise capital accumulation and profits. This is condemning the planet. The Socialist Party does not accept this status quo and rejects the values and priorities of capitalist exploitation and production for profit. The mounting realisation that humanity faces critical risks from global warming must create an awareness of the danger that capitalism presents.
Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Sunrise and Extinction Rebellion focus on the single issue of the environment as the most pressing matter of our time. They may well be right, in one sense. However, we say that if all the combined energy campaigning against individual problems the system throws up had been spent on attacking capitalism as a system, instead of distracting millions of workers, then our task of building a new cooperative commonwealth would have been vastly aided. A great amount of our political work has been taken up in attempts to rectify the damage done to socialist ideas by other political organisations and in challenging the single-issue mentality of thousands of organisations. If people eliminate the cause of the problems, the problems won’t keep cropping up. Instead of trying to fix the symptoms, forever and forever, year in and year out, people can eliminate the cause, once and for all.
Voices in the ecology movement inform us that we are individually responsible for climate change and imply that it is our personal fault that the planet’s environment is fouled up. They tell us that it is ‘mankind’ which contributes to carbon emissions because our ‘excessive’ consumerism makes manufacturers increase their production to satisfy demand. In fact the carbon footprint of one individual is very small and practically irrelevant. The biggest culprit in global warming is the business interests of the industries which produce almost all the emissions. Corporations are less concerned with stopping pollution than with making more profits than the next corporation. Carbon capture technology is expensive, so companies would have to cut deeply into their profits to take any real steps toward stopping emissions. Business is not about to lower its profits for anybody. Business has not reduced its profits to end poverty nor to cease wars. Why should we expect them to do such a thing in order to halt global warming?
What comfort can people get from the assurance of governments that they can solve the global warming crisis? The promises politicians make are fraudulent. They talk endlessly about what they will do some day, but it always remains talk. They have promised policies and action that will slow down greenhouse gas emissions, yet are doing almost the least they can get away with doing. How can anyone be satisfied with politicians who promise and never deliver?
A socialist society which has control of the means of production and distribution can assure adequate comfort for the population. The potential to create such a society exists, but that potential can be realised only if working people act to gain control of their own lives by organising, politically and industrially, for socialism. The aim of socialist production is not profits but simply what people need to live comfortably.
What is required to stabilise the rise in temperature is a global political and social revolution to end capitalism and put humanity in charge of its interaction with the rest of nature. This can only be done if the Earth’s natural and industrial resources become the common property of all humanity. We need to wrest control of science and technology from the hands of our ‘masters’. There is little time left, for humanity stands at the crossroads now and must make its choice now. Socialism will open doors that have been locked to humanity throughout our history, and finally allow us to enter a new stage in our social evolution.