Petty bourgeois political hopelessness in the face of capitalist crisis, carnage, and supposed "passivity" of the working class is seen (deflected and distorted) in the lurid, hysterical tenor of any discussion of man-made climate change in the bourgeois press and its middle class offshoots.
A communist perspective has a different tone entirely, and that is all to the good.
Working class must lead fight to defend
Thousands will join the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice in Washington, D.C., April 29, seeking to protest the increasing perils to life and limb, pollution of the soil, water and skies.
How the destruction of the environment is a consequence of the rule of the capitalist class and the governments that serve them — Democratic and Republican alike — is addressed in this excerpt from “The Stewardship of Nature Also Falls to the Working Class: In Defense of Land and Labor.” The statement was adopted by the July 2007 convention of the Socialist Workers Party and printed in New International no. 14. It explains how the fight to prevent the profit-driven rulers’ destruction of the environment is bound up with the fight by working people for political power.
An excerpt from the book is printed below. Copyright © 2008 by New International. Reprinted by permission.
How social labor is organized to transform nature — to whose benefit, to what social and economic ends — depends on the class relations of production. It depends on which class rules, which class holds state power. A 1993 talk by Jack Barnes published in Capitalism’s World Disorder addressed this fundamental point. “Environmental pollution is a social question, a class question,” Barnes observed.
Workers must not fall into accepting the common view—that is, the bourgeois view — that the environment …is a “scientific” question, a “natural” question, that somehow hovers above classes and outside the class struggle. That is how many middle-class opponents of nuclear energy, and of nuclear weapons, for example, often present those questions. Many who call themselves environmentalists say the problem is “consumerism,” or industrial development per se. But the workers movement has to explain the source of ecological destruction and why the answer lies along the revolutionary line of march of the working class….
The working class must also reject all forms of fake science, exaggerations, catastrophism, and crankism. There is a decades-long record of such frenzied prophecies — the impending exhaustion of fossil fuels and other natural resources, the “limits to growth,” and so on. These originate in sections of the bourgeoisie and are then picked up and propagated by petty-bourgeois reformers. They feed into the conspiracy nostrums that are floated in the working class and labor movement, taking workers’ eyes off the true source of such social ills: the capitalists and their profit system….
[I]f we translate everything commonly thought of as an environmental issue into how to advance the protection of the working class, and how the working class can extend that protection to all, then we can hardly ever go wrong. With that approach, we will increase the possibilities for concrete solidarity in fighting against ecological abuses and outrages.
The labor movement should expose the differential effects of pollution on the working class, including the even more devastating consequences for sections of the working class that are the poorest and most vulnerable, as well as those that are Black, Latino, or foreign born…. The workers movement must take the lead in actively exposing the destruction and dangers produced by capitalism and in organizing opposition to them.
This communist course, Barnes concludes, enables us to explain how “the sources of all wealth — land and labor — are increasingly the victims of the domination of capital. And, most importantly, why the working-class-led struggle for a socialist revolution opens a way forward on this front as well.”
As Cuban Gen. Armando Choy concludes in Our History Is Still Being Written, “Yes, a better world is possible. But only with a socialist revolution.”
In the mid-nineteenth century some 85 percent of energy for human use was produced by burning wood, charcoal, and crop residue. Today some 85 percent of energy supplies comes from fossil fuels — primarily coal, oil, and natural gas. The production and use of these resources in pursuit of profits has always been detrimental not only to the health of the workers involved but simultaneously to the natural environment in which we live and labor.
A transition to other energy sources can and will be neither smooth nor rapid. The dog-eat-dog laws of rival capitals ensure that every “energy policy” implemented by corporations and bourgeois governments will serve the interests of maintaining capitalist rule — not the economic, social, and cultural needs of the earth’s population, nor the health and safety of the workers involved. Communists oppose anti-working-class “solutions” promoted by big business and various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois reformers. We expose and counter their reactionary notion, for instance, that “too large” a population of toilers — as well as too much consumption and too high living standards for many of them — is a threat to a “livable” world.
The capitalist rulers warn workers and farmers throughout the semicolonial world that they must forego the level of economic development and living standards existing in the imperialist countries — development achieved in no small part by superexploiting the toilers and plundering the resources of these very same oppressed peoples. “The ecological consequences are unsustainable!” impatient toilers are scolded. This is another of finance capital’s smokescreens masking the reasons for the widening gap in economic, social, and cultural conditions between earth’s great toiling majority, on the one hand, and, on the other, the bourgeoisie and professional middle classes in the imperialist centers and in the more economically advanced semicolonial countries.
In the United States and other imperialist countries, politicians and other bourgeois voices tell working people “we” must tighten “our” belts in order to stem environmental destruction. They tell us “we” must accept higher prices for fuel and other necessities, including regressive “carbon taxes” on gasoline, home heating oil, and commercial travel. “We” must recycle, turn off the lights, lower the thermostat, go without air conditioning, ride a bike, change our showerhead, join a carpool, flush the toilet less, plant a tree.
But there is no “we” that embraces both working people and those who grow wealthy off the exploitation of our labor: the ruling families and their rentier tagalongs among the middle class and professionals. Such “solutions” not only inaccurately place the blame on individuals and families and promote the sale of “green” and “organic” products and services at premium prices. Above all, they are part of the drive by the capitalist rulers to boost their profit rates at the expense of the working conditions, wages, living conditions, trade union solidarity, and genuine social security of workers and farmers, all of which have been under relentless assault since the mid-1970s.