By Ragnar V. Røed
It is great that millions of youth go out on the streets and squares for the planet’s climate. In Norway, thousands have already taken part, and more will join. Everyone with a deep desire and a burning demand for real measures to be taken against climate crisis and global warming. Communists join, and we join with the message that only communism can solve environmental problems and climate crisis.
Climate change is measurable and has been proven without a doubt by researchers all over the world. There are very few (primarily in the US and on the darkest places on the internet) who do not believe that it is caused by human activities who can remain content with this. If the increasing average temperature and changes in the weather cannot be blamed on human activities, then the problem is even more acute. Because then, it would not help to cut emissions, and the only thing left to do is to carry out the most acute damage-reducing measure. Measures that are impossible under capitalism.
Two Necessary and Anticapitalist Answers to the Climate Crisis
The climate crisis must be met in two ways. First, carbon emissions must be cut. Not only CO2, but also other gasses that affect the greenhouse effect. These measures must go hand in hand with a comprehensive restructuring that ensures that people will live more sustainably on the planet. Our production cannot be dependent on non-renewable resources. We cannot transport consumer goods all over the earth. We cannot empty the oceans of fish and fill them with plastic. We cannot continue in this way if we want a livable future for humanity. Secondly, people must be defended against climate crisis. Hundreds of millions of poor people have been the first to be hit by extreme weather, floods, storms, increasing sea levels, droughts, and so on. Not only are they hit first, but they are hit much harder than the people in the wealthy countries.
None of these two tasks can be resolved within the capitalist system. To restructure the entire production of humanity can only be done with political and social revolution. To all those who doubt this, we need only refer to the last thirty years. The climate problems have been known for a long time, and received a great deal of attention in the 1980s. But capitalism demands capital accumulation, capital accumulation demands economic growth, and enormous cuts and restructuring is directly at odds with such growth. As long as somebody profits off of polluting, capitalists will do it.
Capitalism Must Create Poverty and Environmental Destruction
It is also capitalism that creates poverty. Wealth in this system comes directly from the poverty of others. Rich capitalists are only able to exist because they make money off of the work that is done by poor proletarians. Their profit is the direct result of the labour of hundreds of millions of poor workers. Only a few wealthy countries, particularly in North America and Europe, are able to exist the way they do precisely because there are so many poor countries. The enormous wealth in the West is built off of centuries of plundering of poor countries. It is built off of different forms of exploitation, where cheap goods and labour power in the world’s poorest countries lie at the basis of enormous surplus for the Western corporations that sell consumer goods produced in the Third World on the Western market.
Capitalism does not create environmental problems and poverty as a coincidental byproduct. It is not something that happens on the side of capitalism. Both of these things are a part of the core operations of capitalism! They have been at the basis of capitalism’s economy for the nearly 200 years that it has dominated Europe. This is what capitalism is. The exploitation of nature and pollution have been a part of capitalism’s industrial revolution. Communists are for industry, and see it as an enormous human advancement that has given us technology and knowledge of great value, but as a part of capitalism, the productive forces become what Marx called destructive forces. The industry is not only constructive, but because it is ruled by the bourgeoisie, it also becomes extremely destructive. It will never be useful to implement isolated or short-term environmental measures. Stricter rules in the West have led to cleaner water and air in many European cities, but this is primarily because the industries in the West have been closed down in favor of enormous growth in the industries of poor countries. Consumer goods in the West are now produced in the third world, and thereby it is their air and water that “foots the bill” for relatively cleaner air and water here.
The Exploitation of the World’s Poorest Has Only Increased!
Capitalism’s plundering of the world’s poorest people has also increased in scope. Capitalism’s first epoch in the 19th century, and the industrial revolution that served as a motor in capitalism’s progress, was built on colonies. The European settlements and massacres in the Americas, Africa, and Asia were a prerequisite for the enormous capitalistic growth. Not only in terms of the raw materials, directly stolen by states and companies from Europe, but also the despicable business of slavery. Slavery, which for nearly a thousand years has been more or less abolished in Europe, was reintroduced through the colonial empires. And even if one has later on abolished formal slavery, the difference was marginal for the masses in the colonies. For instance, the entire population of India was subjugated to the despotic monarchy of Great Britain. They did not have any freedoms or rights until they were formally liberated in 1947.
Some claim that it has been a long time since colonialism. But our grandparents’ generation lived through a time period where most of the world was still formally colonized! And the colonial time period lasted for several generations, where countries and people were robbed by the European colonial powers. But more important than this – capitalism has by no means abolished the plunder. On the contrary, the plundering has been effectivized and intensified! In the 20th century, capitalism entered into a new epoch that we call imperialism. It has by this time divided the world into two: into imperialist countries and oppressed countries. It is a political, social, and cultural division, but the economic division lies at its basis: the capitalist division that lays the basis for the capitalist system. The division into exploiter and exploited. How do we know that the exploitation has increased?
A century ago, the overwhelming majority of the world’s population consisted of peasants. Most of these did not produce enough to sell goods on any markets. They produced for themselves and their families. Small agricultural collectives, families, or rural towns were the fundamental economic unit for the vast majority of the world’s population. Since then, the proletariat has grown enormously. In the Western countries, the peasant population went from comprising 30, 40, or even 50% of the population in 1900 to 1 to 2% today! And despite capitalism’s internationalizing of the market, it is still the case that a very large proportion of the food in the West is produced by farmers in the West. It is simply more profitable, both in terms of the enormous effectivization (automization) and in terms of transportation logistics. But the growth of the proletariat has been much larger in the third world. This can be seen, for instance, in urbanization, where a steadily larger proportion of masses in the third world is living in large cities. The proletariat has not only become larger in the past century, but has doubled. And most of these produce goods to the profit of large companies, primarily Western companies. Moreover, the population has increased enormously. In 100 years, the global population has increased from under 2 billion to over 7 billion.
In other words, the total number of proletarians that are exploited by capitalism has doubled in 100 years, and they continue to be primarily exploited by the large Western companies. And one can see the enormous growth of these companies very clearly! The Western states and companies have increased their gross products and profits enormously over the course of the last 100 years. Manifold times is an understatement. For instance, the earlier colonial mastodon England has increased its gross domestic product (GDP) from roughly 5000 pounds per capita to 30,000 pounds per capita from 1916 to 2016. The population count has increased in the country, and it has gone from having half (!) of the world as colonies to becoming a relatively small island empire. But thanks to imperialism, the gross national product has increased 6-fold. A growth that has obviously primarily benefited corporations and the bourgeoisie. And, just as obviously, a growth that can primarily be traced to the British ruling class’s leeching off of and exploitation of the masses in the third world.
The Masses of the World’s Poorest Are Attacked Brutally
Again – wealth in capitalism comes from poverty. When companies can earn a lot of money, this is exclusively because those in the lowest or first layer of the production process are as a rule robbed. Apple’s enormous profits cannot be separated from the fact that the minerals in the iPhone’s PCBs and other components are dug up – essentially by hand – in the miserable mines in the Congo. Those who do the work are incredibly poor people, without safety equipment, and in extremely dangerous working conditions – typically by children. This is not just some isolated extreme that distinguishes itself fundamentally from other branches and products. It is a typical condition. This characterizes the working conditions of hundreds of millions of people in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. This is where profits come from. And it is these people who are also hit first and hardest by climate change.
In Bangladesh, millions of people are driven from arable land because of rising sea levels. Millions in North Africa and Central Asia are driven from pastures and farms due to increased droughts. Natural catastrophes tied to changes in weather patterns have destroyed millions of homes, created the perfect conditions for epidemics, led to local breakdowns in infrastructure, and so on, which become beyond catastrophic incidents when they hit the world’s poorest. Due to capitalism, hundreds of millions are left victim to the forces of nature. As cheap labour power, they are useful to the capitalists, but they are not worth enough to pay wages or provide welfare that would protect them from climate change. On the contrary, their value is judged so low that capitalism can sacrifice them for profits. Millions of unemployed stand in line, ready to take their place. And destroyed factories or destroyed infrastructure are cheaper to replace than they are to protect. At least in the short term.
Such Are Capitalism’s Economic Laws
Nobody has needed to plan this. No decisions need to be made in government, boards, or committees. Capitalism’s economic laws are unbending. Competition demands maximal profits, or the out-competing of others. Capital flows to where it is most profitable. Shareholders and asset managers are not governed by romantic feelings for this or that branch, or this or that company; they invest where they get good returns and sell themselves out where they don’t. Profitable business blooms, unprofitable business busts, is split up, or sold out. It is not enough to operate at a profit, but one must also receive more for their investments than the competition does. Otherwise, one will lose in the long term. The politicians can believe whatever they want about this, but this is the nature of capitalism. This is the nature of the system. They are the economic laws of motion in the capitalist system. This will win through everywhere, regardless of which measures are carried out by the UN or some parliament.
“Green Capitalism” is Impossible
Furthermore, the same businesses that make money on renewable energy in Norway can make money on oil in the Northern Sea, nuclear energy in Germany, coal in Poland, and can also make good money on extremely dirty and harmful oil concessions in the Niger Delta in Nigeria. The same capitalist can wear a “green” mask, can greenwash their company in a Western company, all while they pump toxic materials into the air, land, and water supply of the world’s poorest people. This is not a hypothetical example either: the Norwegian and partially state-owned Equinor is one such company. And other energy giants do not manifest themselves any differently. Investments in useful “green” energies do not replace emissions; they only come in addition to them, and they come at their own costs. To produce an electric vehicle or solar cell panel also has an environmental cost, and constructing wind turbines in formerly undisturbed nature must be identified as a type of concession made by the green capitalists.
There is no such thing as a business-friendly climate policy. There is no such thing as green capitalism. It is a bluff, a sham, and it is not even a postponement of the warned catastrophe. It is a mantra that is repeated by the politicians who understand the severity, but who can by no means offer a solution. It is an attempt to calm the masses, and eventually bring the students back into the classrooms, while the world’s poorest people continue to pay the price for pollution. The climate crisis is capitalism’s very own crisis. It cannot be blamed on people nor population increases, and the blame rests solely on the economic, social, and political system that has dominated the world for the past 100 years.
The evidence is as clear as day in all the known figures that are accepted by virtually everybody. Almost all emissions, and all the most acute deterioration have occurred in the past century, but in particular in the past 50 years, and to a larger degree in the past 25 years. Because capitalism has not only continued the destruction, but has escalated it! And they escalate, they increase, even though “everybody” knows both the problem and the solution. The conclusion is crystal clear: capitalism must be abolished. It must be abolished for the planet’s sake and particularly for the sake of the billions of masses of poor peasants and proletarians in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
Communism Will Solve the Problem
Only a communist planned economy will carry out the necessary measures. Only communism can and will create a sustainable world society for the future. Only communism will liberate the masses from exploitation and oppression, from the bourgeoisie’s parasitic enterprise at the expense of people and the environment. If the earth and humanity are to march forward to a shining future, capitalism and capitalists must be swept away from the surface of the planet. Communism means collective victory, it means from each according to their ability and to each according to their need, it means that all power lies in the hands of the armed and organized masses of people all over the world. We have everything to win from stopping the plunder of the environment and climate, because it is we who live here and will be the first to pay for pollution. It is not the world’s richest people who will die first as a result of, for instance, air pollution.
Communism is the next stage of development for human society. It is only communism that for the past 100 years challenged capitalism. Going back to the Middle Ages or the Stone Ages is no alternative, because the development moves inexorably forward. And the way forward does not go any other way than through communism. Production that is already socialized by capitalism must also be placed under the social collective’s full and complete control. The new and modern working class, the proletariat, has become the world’s largest and most powerful class. It is the toughest and most resilient class, and carries the world’s entire economic system on its shoulders. The proletariat has made uprisings and revolutions for 150 years. It has seized political power in Paris 1871, in the Soviet Union in 1917, in China in 1949, as its first world historic political revolutions. They do not belong to the future, but to our epoch, and they bear with them the future. The system we have today was politically established through wars, like the French Revolution and the American War of Independence in the 18th century. The political system of capitalism was at that time established through violence and force. But now, it belongs to the present, and the future belongs to the socialist proletarian revolution, which will not stop until the entire world is communist.
The climate crisis poses the question of communism sharply. Exploitation, wars, and economic crises are all a part of capitalism and destroy millions of lives each year. The climate crisis worsens conditions dramatically. And it even gets the masses in the Western imperialist countries to experience an existential crisis. Whether or not it is realistic, it is a completely legitimate disposition to have in regards to capitalism’s frontal assault on the planet. They must be stopped, and only the people’s own struggle can – and will – change the world.
The red flag is lifted over the fighting masses of people in the world. They stand at the fore for the revolutionary attack on capitalism. And they carry the promise for a bright future for humanity. The masses in the Western countries must go further and farther than the Yellow Vests and climate strikes. We must break all bonds of loyalty to the capitalist political system, boycott their election circus, and throw ourselves into the revolutionary class struggle for political power to the proletariat. It is this that will tear the world out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and make it into our own world, where the masses consciously and enthusiastically control their own future. All difficulties that today’s politicians point to, the difficulty of transforming businesses – all of this will disappear like morning dew in the sun. Without power, everything is difficult, but with power, the people can do anything.
Raise the red flag for climate strikes!