Sunday, July 18, 2021

Voice From The Back: Greens and Green Backs (2009)

The Voice From The Back Column from the July 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

Greens and Green Backs

It is fashionable for every capitalist politician to say that they are “green” – it is a good vote-catcher, but the realities of capitalism are the production of more and more profits. So when it comes to the crunch, profit-making is going to be a bigger priority than the environment. “US Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the US will not be able to cut greenhouse emissions as much as it should due to domestic political opposition. Prof Chu told BBC News he feared the world might be heading towards a tipping point on climate change. This meant the US had to cut emissions urgently – even if compromises were needed to get new laws approved. … President Barack Obama says he wants cuts in greenhouse gases but has left it to Congress to make the political running. The House of Representatives is debating a climate and energy bill but even if it passes it may be rejected by senators, many of whom are funded by the energy industry.” (BBC News, 21 May) Politicians are deeply concerned about “green” issues – the issue of green-back dollars.

Improving Capitalism?

Socialism is a good idea, but rather than dream of a future society without social problems we should get on with the practical business of improving capitalism gradually with a series of reforms of the system. That is the claim of many opponents of world socialism, but what has 40 years of reform and 40 years of charity done to aid the problem of world hunger? “A UN report says hunger in South Asia has reached its highest level in 40 years because of food and fuel price rises and the global economic downturn. The report by the UN children’s fund, Unicef, says that 100 million more people in the region are going hungry compared with two years ago. It names the worst affected areas as Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The report says South Asia’s governments need to urgently increase social spending to meet the challenge. It says that climate change and urbanisation also need tackling. According to the World Bank, three quarters of the population in South Asia – almost 1.2 billion people – live on less than $2 (£1.2) a day. And more than 400m people in the region are now chronically hungry. ” (BBC News, 2 June) Who are the dreamers? Socialists who wish to abolish the system that produces world hunger or “practical” people with their reform programmes and charity drives that have succeeded in only making the problem worse over the last 40 years.

A Shameful Waste

This glaring problem of world hunger is happening in a society where capitalist governments throughout the world are spending immense amounts of human labour and natural resources in producing means to destroy human lives. “China spent $84.9 billion (£53 billion) on its military last year, second only to the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Its report said that France moved into third place in spending with Britain fourth. Military spending worldwide rose by 4 per cent to $1.46 trillion, the report said.” (Times, 9 June) Only the new society of world socialism will abolish this madness. Think what that $1.46 trillion represents in human labour and natural resources and think what it could achieve in abolishing world hunger.

Education's Real Role

There is a widespread illusion that the purpose of education, especially higher education, is to produce well-rounded human beings who are equipped with a basic thirst for knowledge and curiosity about the world around them. It is a wonderful concept but like most of capitalism’s ideas it is a complete fraud. “England’s department for higher and further education has been scrapped, just two years after its creation. The prime minister has created a new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under Lord Mandelson. Universities do not figure in the name of the new department, whose remit is ‘to build Britain’s capabilities to compete in the global economy’. Number 10 said it would invest in a higher education system committed to widening participation. The role would include ‘maintaining world class universities, expanding access to higher education, investing in the UK’s science base and shaping skills policy and innovation’”. (BBC News, 5 June) Far from being concerned about an individual’s intellectual development, inside capitalism the purpose of education is dictated by the industrial and commercial needs of the owning class. The UK must compete for world markets therefore it needs an educated working class.

The Ire Of The Irate Itinerant (2009)

 From the July 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard