From Inhabitable Earth, June 9, 2007
“Not to Laugh, Not to Weep, But to Understand”
As Leon Trotsky said of the Stalinist betrayal of the Russian Revolution and everything it achieved, the task is “not to laugh, not to weep, but to understand”. This site has been started as an attempt to understand essentially the politics of climate change, and turn things around before it is too late.
Already the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is predicting a 2degC temperature rise even with large cuts in greenhouse emissions and the Stern Review proposals, while far more serious than that proposed by conservative governments around the world, could lead to 5 degree rises by the end of the year. The situation requires a radical change in the way we organise as a society.
As indicated by the atmospheric changes in the last thousand years, the qualitative change in greenhouse gas concentrations have coincided with the beginning of industrial capitalist development. The problem isn’t civilisation in and of itself, but rather a product of a system that puts accumulation of capital above the fulfillment of human and world needs.
Initially Capitalism expanded production capacity with technological development and the creation of a new social force — the working class — whose labour could be purchased to carry out extraordinary feats. While Capitalism is based on generalised commodity production, the commodities produced actually fulfilled some human needs and overcome contradictions remaining from Feudalism. This process was helped through the formation of the Capitalist state, which enabled investments to be consciously directed (like towards constructing railways, harbours etc).
However very quickly it became clear that a society owned and organised by a elite minority, could not and would not directly seek to improve the problems of the majority and through the quest to accumulate more and more capital it introduced new and far more horrible problems. Diseases ran rampant, smog enveloped London, and the colonised countries were economically distorted around the needs of the colonial countries. More and more farmers were thrown into unemployment and into the cities to earn miniscule wages for survival.
Soon the economic powers were able to acquire (both legally and illegally) huge sums of wealth and the banks became powerful providers of finance for developing new more profitable industries. But the rate of return on investments constantly fell and the big industries with banks came together to form even larger monopolies to regulate the prices and thus ensure competition didn’t drive down profit margins. The state too became more engaged in aiding this process, crushing opposition to wage cuts and poor working conditions, using military force to penetrate into new “markets” for buying and selling their products (particularly cheap labour).
And so the period of Imperialism came into being.
With the entering of this period, Capitalism entered its last stage. From here production became an increasingly social process, now globally, but the wealth would concentrate into the hands of fewer and fewer individuals. Today 225 individuals own the same as 2.5 Billion and the ratio of incomes between richest and poorest countries has grown from 3:1 in 1820, to 72:1 in 1992. This continues to grow and the situation of billions of poor living in the third world is becoming increasingly dire. At the same time Capitalist production has become increasingly parasitic and destructive. Huge amounts of waste are dumped wherever cheapest, fossil fuel electricity plants have grown to accommodate the rising energy demand, water has been sucked dry from every lake and river, and increasingly dangerous chemicals are being created to aid making cheap throw away goods that need to be continually replaced, refuelled and repaired.
If we are to secure a decent living not just for a handful of rich capitalists in the 22nd century, but for the entire world, then we cannot rely on individual solutions or better technologies. Yes they are important, however they cannot fundamentally deal with the crises that has been created by centuries of chaotic capitalist production. So to genuinely create an inhabitable earth for the 22nd century we must turn society on its head: take control of society away from the hands of the polluters and put it into the hands of the oppressed majority.
Unfortunately however the rich polluters are not likely to give up their position of power lightly. Only with an organised political movement of the majority of society, who have so far been excluded from the real decision making process, can we confront this situation and introduce a society that can open the way for a truly inhabitable earth. This society is a socialist society. Not the destructive bureaucratically degenerated Stalinist socialism of most of the last century, but a Socialism of the 21st Century. Socialism of the 21st Century, must be the truly democratic, liberating and human society envisaged by Marx and Engels and (initially) created by Lenin. This socialism is the type which has made Cuba the only sustainable country in the world and is allowing Venezuelan people to actually make poverty history.
If we cannot fight and organise for Socialism in the 21st Century, then sadly we will see the destruction of civilisation and the creation of Barbarism of the 21st Century.