Capitalism Promises Annihilation by Climate Catastrophe

Capitalism is killing the planet. July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded, and the following months each set records as the hottest-ever August, September, etc. 2023 is on track to be the hottest year since records began, which fits the pattern of the last few decades where each year tends to top the previous in being the "hottest year ever".

The human effects, and repercussions on Earth's entire ecosystem, are enormous. Droughts multiply across the world, particular in already scorching regions like the Sahel in Africa. Adding on to shocks in food supply from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, crop harvests come up short and bring mass famine in their wake for proletarians in countries like Afghanistan and Somalia. Extreme weather events are also multiplying in recent years, like the flood in Libya which produced a death toll of 20,000 people in August, the great majority we can assume to be members of our class. Floods in Pakistan displaced a sixth of the country's 200 million population in 2022. Refugees, proletarian migrants fleeing Central America, the Sahel, the Middle East, increasingly flee from inhospitable conditions produced by climate change, either directly or indirectly, such as the conflicts spawned by dwindling water sources. Wildfires in Canada all throughout the summer brought clouds of smoke across vast swathes of the US, enshrouding cities like NYC in apocalyptic hazes. The Statue of Liberty barely visible against the red sky serves as a visual demonstration that climate collapse, brought on by capital, stares us in the face.

Make no mistake about it, what we are currently experiencing is entirely in line with climate scientists' long held predictions, and in some cases has gone beyond them. We are at the stage of climate change where its effects are becoming generalized, hitting the proletariat first and the hardest. Additionally, beyond local disasters, we are now approaching the climate threshold where Earth's ecosystems begin to break down. The desertification of the Amazon, the collapse of the Atlantic wind currents, these are real possibilities this century or sooner. Some studies predict that the 21st century will bear witness to a billion climate deaths. Humanity's survival, existentially threatened on one side by capitalism's march towards generalized imperialist war, is equally threatened on the other by climate breakdown brought on by capitalist production.

Who is to blame?

Let us not mince words. Capitalism is guilty for the climate crisis. It is a decadent, oppressive social system that lives thanks to not only the exploitation of the working class, but also thanks to the pillaging of the world's resources and destruction of its environments.

We do not pin the blame only on the multinational oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil, BP, or Gazprom. Neither do we lay the blame solely with "bad" politicians, those who accept bribes from these firms in return for lucrative contracts and climate-denialist rhetoric. These companies, the capitalists which manage them, have certainly got blood on their hands; they profit off of the extraction of the fossil fuels which go on to be burned and accelerate the heating of the planet, and certain (Exxon for instance) played major roles in suppressing scientific research about the real effects of CO2 emissions. The politicians who accept their bribes on the campaign trail to then oversee Earth's death by a thousand cuts while in office are equally to be condemned.

It would be an error to get caught up in blaming individuals, however. The entire system is to blame for climate change because the extraction, sale and use of oil, gas and other 'dirty' fuels is a vital component of world capital. Oil and gas are the literal fuels that world capital uses to power accumulation and profit generation in all other domains. It is not just that oil and gas directly take up large portions of certain states' GDPs, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, or even the US where it is 8%. It is the fact that the vast majority of the rest of capital's (stagnating) economic growth is only possible thanks to oil and gas energy. So all the promises by left-wing factions within capital for a transition to "net-zero" emissions by 2030, or 2050, or whenever is far enough to not matter, are fantasies, if they are not outright lies. They would be removing the legs from economic growth which is unacceptable for capital. The only "success stories" in lowering emissions in the US and Europe are from the ruling classes of those countries relocating their polluting infrastructure to the shores of Africa, Asia and Latin America, for proletarians there to toil in.

This brings us to the wider picture, which is that capitalism is a system based on constant accumulation and generation of profits. The imperative is economic growth, which in turn means exploiting the working class to the hilt and acquiring raw materials at the cheapest price, while maximizing the amount of things produced. Besides the 'normal' degradation of living standards for workers, the result is a callous disregard for the environment and Earth's health, as these are non-concerns in the pursuit of profit. It is only to be expected then that capitalism's continued existence is synonymous with mass ecological destruction. With competition between leading imperialist powers accentuating since the War in Ukraine and generalized imperialist war on the horizon, the tendency towards environmental destruction becomes even more pronounced.

Capital's "Solutions"

As capitalism is to blame for its climate crisis, all of its supposed "solutions" are either band-aids or have a more nefarious purpose.

Each year since 1995, the United Nations has held climate conferences (COPs) where the representatives of capital from each country go to make paper declarations about combatting climate change. These treaties are filled with cute words about reducing emissions by X year or supporting those affected by climate change, but they are unenforceable, given the competing imperialist interests at play. Heads of state cynically sign and parade these statements to give the system an ideological cover in front of the working class, that international progress is being made in fighting climate change, when nothing could be further from the truth. The upcoming COP28 conference (hosted by the UAE who's bourgeoisie has enriched itself off of oil profits) will be more of the same. No changes, just words.

What measures the bourgeoisie does implement to expand 'renewable' energy sectors of the economy, are undertaken in preparation for generalized imperialist war. The Biden administration's reduction of US dependence on OPEC has less to do with concern for CO2 emissions and more with a desire to grow a domestic energy infrastructure that can sustain a war with China. It is the same with the plans to open semiconductor plants powered by 'green' energy, and the same idea is behind the "Green New Deal". These are all measures designed to solidify capitalism in the face of resource depletion and the march towards war. Green capitalism is "war ecology", plain and simple. Our class will pay the price for all of it: from the extraction of raw materials like cobalt necessary to fund the so-called "green transition", to becoming tied to the state and unions in the new industries, and in the tried and tested sacrifice of the working class as cannon fodder for any future imperialist war.

Only One Solution: Proletarian Revolution

Environmental protests by young workers and students have been massive in recent years, fueled by rage at a system which condemns them to a future on an inhospitable planet. The scope, within the US and abroad, of the 2019 climate "strikes" testifies to the awareness by young workers of what is at stake: nothing less than humanity's survival. But one-day demonstrations, attended by politicians who represent this rotten system and led by organizations like Sunrise who conduct war ecology PR for these youth, will not halt capital's climate rampage.

No, only international proletarian revolution, led by the proletariat’s class party, and the creation of a global system of workers’ councils, present the escape from climate hell. The survival of our species demands a revival of the working class' combativity. That is, the connection of today's struggles with the vision of a future classless society that lives in ecological harmony with our planet. In this society production and distribution would be reorganized based on need, not profit, only then allowing for the international coordination necessary to overcome climate challenges. Communism would bring about the destruction of wasteful, polluting and destructive industries, such as the military, advertising, cash-crops, and all of the production that goes into them. Production would be sustainably increased to ensure access for all of the world’s population to the necessities of life. Climate refugees, rather than becoming the bogeyman for nationalist demagogues to divide the working class, would find refuge in a world that does not know borders.

Communism or extinction!

The above article is taken from the upcoming edition of Internationalist Notes (#6 Fall 2023), bulletin of the Internationalist Workers’ Group.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023