Fourth International: Mobilisation for the climate and anti-capitalist strategy
[The following documents dealing with capitalism's climate crisis were presented at the 16th World Congress of the Fourth International, held in Belgium in February 2010.]
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By Daniel Tanuro
February 2010 -- Three billion human beings lack the essentials of life. The satisfaction of their needs requires increased production of material goods. Therefore increased consumption of energy. Today, 80 per cent of this energy is of fossil origin, and consequently a source of greenhouse gases which are unbalancing the climatic system.
However, we can no longer permit ourselves to unbalance the climate. We are probably no longer very far from a “tipping point” beyond which phenomena which are uncontrollable and irreversible on a human timescale are likely to be set in motion, which could lead to a situation that humanity has never experienced and which the planet has not experienced for 65 million years: a world without ice. A world in which the sea level would rise by approximately 80 metres compared to its level today.
The total disappearance of ice is certainly not for tomorrow: the process could take up to a thousand years. But it could be set in motion in 20, 30 or 40 years and involve a rise in the sea level of several metres before the end of the century. To prevent this happening, it is necessary to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, therefore to completely do without fossil fuels within two or three generations.
Do without coal, oil, natural gas? It is possible: the technical potential of renewable energies is sufficient to take over. But in practice, in the very short period of time we dispose of, the energy transition is possible only if it goes hand in hand with an important reduction in energy consumption. A reduction so great that it cannot be only attained by an increase in energy efficiency: a reduction of material production and of transport of goods is necessary.
This is enough to understand and to make people understand that humanity is facing a gigantic challenge. A challenge of a completely new nature, which will dominate the 21st century. A challenge which contributes to determining the conditions of intervention of revolutionary Marxists and of the workers’ movement in general.
Capitalism cannot rise to this double challenge. Neither on the social level, nor on the environmental level. More exactly: it cannot rise to it in a way that is acceptable for humanity (I will come back later on this). The reason for this incapacity is the same on the two levels: the purpose of capitalism is not the production of use values for the satisfaction of finite human needs, but the potentially infinite production of value by many and competing capitals, organised around rival states.
Capitalism without growth?
A capitalism without growth is a contradiction in terms. The relative dematerialisation of production is certainly a reality, but it is more than compensated for by the increase in the mass of goods produced. This accumulation dynamic constitutes the fundamental reason for which “green capitalism” is an illusion, in the same way as is “social capitalism”. There are green capitals, without any doubt, there are even more and more, and they generate considerable surplus value. But they do not replace dirty capitals: they are added to them, and the latter, because they dominate, determine the rhythms, the technological choices and the modalities of introduction of the former.
The recent past does not leave any doubt on this subject. Look at Barack Obama: at the time of the presidential campaign, he promised to make the polluters pay, in order to massively support green energies (US$150 billion in 10 years) and to help the most underprivileged layers in society to handle the increase in the price of energy. This policy was supposed to create 5 million jobs. But along came the subprime crisis and of all these intentions, there remains nothing. In the USA as in the EU, the polluters will receive rights to pollute for nothing, sell them at a profit and pass on the price to the consumers.
Capitalist climate policy reinforces the capitalists who are destroying the climate. Thus we can see in action the power of the fossil energy lobbies and the sectors which are linked to them, such as cars, shipbuilding, aeronautics, petrochemicals and others. This confirms the Marxist analysis according to which monopolies have the power to slow down the equalisation of rates of profit. In the case of fossil fuels, this power is all the stronger in that it is anchored in the ownership of deposits, mines etc, therefore in ground rent.
The result is laid out before our eyes: in all countries, climate plans do not represent even half of what would be necessary in terms of reduction of greenhouse gases emissions. Moreover, these plans are deepening social inequality and are accompanied by a headlong flight into dangerous technologies: nuclear energy, the massive production of biofuels, and the capture and geological sequestration of CO2 (supposed to make coal “clean”).
It is within this general framework that we have to look at the farce of Copenhagen: the ultra-mediatised conference supposed to lead to a new constraining and ambitious international treaty to take over from the Kyoto Protocol ended in a rout: without targets in hard figures, without deadlines, without even a reference year from which to measure reductions in emissions.
Moreover, Copenhagen could well mark a turn towards a policy even more dangerous than that of the Kyoto Protocol. By the agreement they concluded, in fact, the 25 big polluting countries were largely freed from the scientific pressure of the IPCC and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. It was a horse-traders’ agreement between imperialism and the new rising capitalist powers, who shared out the atmosphere on the backs of the peoples, the workers and the poor of the entire world. It is very much to be feared that the Cancun Conference in December 2011 will confirm this turn. In that case, on the basis of current national climate plans, we can project a rise in the average surface temperature between 3.2°C and 4.9°C in 2100 (compared to the eighteenth century).
We should be wary of falling into a catastrophism with eschatological undertones. Some apocalyptic discourses, indeed, only invoke urgency in order to argue for sacrifices and to conjure away the responsibility of capitalism. But there is no doubt that a rise in temperature of 4°C would lead to real social and ecological catastrophes.
It is a question here of taking the exact measure of the threat. It is not the future of the planet which is at stake, nor life on Earth, nor even the survival of humankind. Apart from an asteroid dropping on us, a large-scale nuclear accident is probably the only thing that can threaten the survival of our species. Climate change, in any case, does not threaten it. But it threatens to seriously worsen the conditions of existence of the 3 billion men and women who already lack the essentials of life. And it threatens the physical survival of a few hundred millions of them, those who are the least responsible for global warming.
Mike Davis, in Late Victorian Holocausts, described in detail the horrible famines which caused tens of millions of victims at the end of the 19th century. These famines were the combined result of an exceptional sequence of El Nino and of the formation of the world market in agricultural produce. It is the repetition of such tragedies that we must expect. With the difference that this time the drama will be due entirely to the thirst for profit of big capital, in particular of the monopolistic sectors based on fossil fuels. This enables us to define precisely the reasons for the inability of capitalism to meet the challenge. “There is no situation without a way out for capitalism”, said Lenin. Indeed. But this time the way out is likely to be particularly barbarous.
The ecological crisis and the social crisis are one and the same
It is obvious that the ecological crisis and the social crisis are one and the same crisis: the crisis of the capitalist system. The expression “ecological crisis” is misleading: it is not nature which is in crisis, but the relationship between society and nature. It is not the climate which is in crisis, and its disturbance is not due to “human activity” in general: it is due to a certain type of this activity, historically determined, based on fossil fuels. The ecological crisis, in other words, is nothing but a manifestation of the deep systemic crisis of capitalism.
It is absolutely obvious that satisfying the right to development and to social needs in general at the same time as carrying out the gigantic reductions in emissions which are necessary in the coming 40 years is possible only if you adopt a radical anti-capitalist perspective.
Esther Vivas (see below) will come back to our political tasks in the second part of this report. I will confine myself here to listing the principal measures which are necessary: to remove useless or harmful production; to plan the transition towards another energy system; to establish renewable sources and to develop energy efficiency, independently of the costs (according to thermodynamic rationality, not profit); to transfer, massively and free of charge, clean technologies to the peoples of the global South, via the public sectors of the countries concerned; to set up a world fund for adaptation to the effects of global warming in poor countries; to support peasant agriculture against agribusiness; to relocate a substantial part of production, in particular agricultural production; to redistribute wealth by making inroads into the revenues of capital; to radically reduce working time and work rhythms, without loss of wages, with hiring of extra workers; to expropriate the credit and energy sectors….
People say: “It is easier said than done.” No doubt, but the first thing to do … is to say it. And that is what we must do initially, as an international: say it. That will not isolate us, on the contrary. The fight against climate change gives really considerable credibility to the anti-capitalist alternative. The very scale of the problem, its global character, its urgency, the monstrous injustice of the foreseeable consequences: all that makes it possible to introduce directly and in very simple terms the need for a radical rupture with the generalised production of commodities.
Considering the enormity of what is at stake, it is much more than a policy option that is posed: it is a choice of civilisation. Through the climatic danger, capitalism makes it possible for us to rehabilitate communism for what it really is: a project of civilisation worthy of the name. The project of a human community self-managing common natural resources in a rational and careful way, in order to allow everyone to live well. Faced with vaguely anti-liberal projects, the fight against climate change reinforces our choice of a clearly anti-capitalist line, as it does our refusal of any participation in governments which manage capitalism.
Role of working class
Strategically, the fight for the climate is not distinguished for us from the general struggle of the exploited and oppressed. It can only be carried out effectively by them: the working class, young people, women, the poor, small farmers, Indigenous people. The working class has to play an important role there, because only it can provide the foundations of another mode of production in which it will decide what is produced, how, why, for whom and in what quantity.
At the same time, it is an understatement to say that the environmental question in general, and the fight for the climate in particular, is difficult to introduce into the workers’ movement. This difficulty results from the situation of the workers as the most exploited class, divorced from its means of production, divorced in particular from nature as a means of production, and which sees these means of production appropriated by capital confronting it as hostile forces.
The conclusion which results from this is that the possibility of integrating ecology into the class struggle depends on the class struggle itself. The more the workers are beaten, atomised, demoralised, the more they will see the defence of the climate as a threat, and the more the capitalist class will be able to really use the protection of the climate as a pretext to attack them even more. In such a context, ecological consciousness can progress only in the alienated form of an inner conflict between the consumer convinced of the necessity to behave in a sober and responsible fashion and the producer preoccupied by the loss of his employment.
On the other hand, the more the workers are successful in their struggles, the more they will gain confidence in their own strength, the more they will be able to deal with the ecological question by bringing to it collectively, as producers and as consumers of their own production, the anti-capitalist solutions that are essential.
A better relationship of forces between in favour of the exploited and oppressed is the necessary prerequisite for an anti-capitalist solution to the climatic crisis, in other words of any acceptable solution. But this prerequisite is by no means sufficient, and does not allow us to put off until later the fight for the environment. Indeed, in addition to its urgency, the ecological question has a certain number of specific characteristics such that the formation of an anti-capitalist class consciousness comes up against even greater obstacles here than in other fields.
Three conclusions flow from this:
- First, the importance of building a political instrument, an anti-capitalist political party capable of presenting analyses of the double crisis, social and ecological. Seldom has the need for a revolutionary party and a revolutionary international, acting as a collective intellectual, been so obvious;
- Second, the importance of a program of demands making it possible to link concretely the social and ecological dimensions of the capitalist crisis. The key point here is that the climatic crisis, by giving a new topicality to the idea of a completely different kind of society, rehabilitates at the same time the concept of the transitional programme, capable of establishing a bridge between the current situation and this global alternative;
- Third, the importance of social dialectics to help the working-class vanguard to play its role. It is no accident that peasants, Indigenous peoples and youth are on the front lines in the social mobilisation for the climate. Young people are fighting for their future, against a monstrous society in which those in authority know what is happening, but let it happen. As for the peasants and Indigenous peoples, unlike the workers, they are not divorced from their means of production, in particular the land. Faced with a capitalist system which has condemned them to death, they have understood that the fight for the climate is part and parcel of their overall struggle and confers upon it a formidable additional dimension of legitimacy. “The peasants can cool down the planet that agribusiness is heating up”, said an official statement of Via Campesina a little before Copenhagen. The workers can also cool down the planet. By producing for needs, not for profit, by radically reducing working time, etc. The convergence of the social movements can help them to become aware of the enormous force that they represent. There lies in particular the importance of the Cochabamba conference convened by Evo Morales.
The Fourth International will call itself ecosocialist
By adopting this Draft Resolution, the Fourth International will call itself ecosocialist. Some people refuse this label, saying: “What use is it, socialism is enough.” Among the adversaries of ecosocialism, there are those for whom nothing has changed, who refuse that the pure schema of the October Revolution should be polluted by the ecological question. They are not, as far as I know, present in our ranks. Moreover, there are comrades who, while accepting the radical innovation of the combined social and ecological crisis, regard ecosocialism as an unnecessary concession to political ecology. That is not what it is about.
We can discuss at length whether or not there was such a thing as an ecology of Marx. Personally, I believe Marx was much more of an ecologist than we have said he was. But that is not what is really important.
What is really important is that all the Marxist currents missed the ecological question, that some of them continue to miss it and that all of them still have difficulty in responding to it in a convincing way.
Calling ourselves ecosocialists is first of all a way of saying “we have understood” or, at the very least, “we know that we must understand something which we did not understand”. It is a new label on the bottle, a little bit like the new shirt that Lenin said had to be put on. A new label can be useful.
But ecosocialism is much more than a label. Though the concept is still work in progress, we can indicate a series of points on which it is substantially different from socialism as generations of militants conceived of it, and as our own current conceived of it.
The starting point is that to stabilise the climate implies a different energy system. Not only other technologies to produce electrical power, heat or movement, but also a different kind of agriculture, a different rationality and a different organisation of space. The building of this new system will inevitably be a long-term task, requiring the destruction of the capitalist productive apparatus. The taking of political power is only the starting point of this upheaval.
The new energy system that must be built implies necessarily the decentralisation of the production of electric power – which is in particular a prerequisite for the rational use of heat – and the relocation of a part of its production. Decentralisation and relocation are perfectly compatible with the project of world socialism, and essential to its democratic self-management. However, it cannot really be disputed that these two concerns do not emerge spontaneously from our programmatic tradition, which rather puts the accent on world planning of production and exchanges.
Another new set of problems relates to the importance of living labour. Our program allocates a major role to the need to invest living labour in services such as personal care, teaching, health, etc. So these problems are not foreign to us. But, for all the other sectors, we rely on the idea that machines and robots will make it possible to free, to the maximum degree, producers from the burden of physical work. This idea must be called into question, because taking care of the ecosystems requires an intelligence and a sensitivity which can be only be brought by human labour. This is particularly obvious in the case of agriculture: in order to “cool the Earth”, as Via Campesina says, it is necessary to replace agribusiness by peasant or co-operative organic agriculture. That inevitably implies greater investment in human labour (which means neither the return to primitive agriculture nor the end of progress, but another form of progress).
Last, the very conception of nature needs to be re-examined. In the context of the capitalist ecological crisis Marxism can really no longer be satisfied with looking at nature solely from the point of view of production, i.e. as a stock of resources, a platform for work and a dumping ground for waste. We must also learn how to look at nature from the point of view of nature itself, from the point of view of large-scale exchanges of matter and of the operating conditions of the ecosystems, which in the final instance determine the living conditions of humanity. There are invaluable indications on this subject in Marx, we have to take hold of them and develop them.
On all these points, the resolution only opens up a process of ongoing theoretical work to which the International will have to come back. But it is important as of now to send out a signal, to show we are moving. In Copenhagen, in December, a breach opened. For the first time, a mass mobilisation on global environmental issues took on the character of a social struggle against the system in place: “Change the system, not the climate”, “Planet not profit”. This internationalist movement will develop. It offers us considerable potentialities. An anti-capitalist tendency did not wait for us to develop. We must reinforce it.
[Daniel Tanuro, a certified agriculturalist and eco-socialist environmentalist, writes for La gauche, the monthly of the LCR-SAP, Belgian section of the Fourth International.]
Anti-capitalism and climate justice
By Esther Vivas
Today, climate change is an undeniable reality. The political, social and media impact of the Copenhagen Summit in December 2009 was a good proof of this. A summit that showed the inability of the capitalist system to give a credible response to a crisis that it has itself created. Green capitalism offers a series of technological solutions (nuclear power, capture of carbon from the atmosphere to be stored, biofuels and so on) that will have a major social and environmental impact. These are false solutions to climate change that try to hide the structural causes that have led us to the current crisis situation and raise the contradiction between the short term calculations of capital and the long rhythms of ecological equilibrium.
In this context, a movement able to challenge the dominant discourse of green capitalism, recognising the impact and the responsibility of the current model of capitalist production, distribution and consumption and linking the global climate threat with everyday social problems is urgent. Copenhagen saw the increased expression of the movement for climate justice, precisely to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the mobilisations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. A protest which, under the slogan “Change the system, not the climate” expresses this diffuse relationship between climate and social justice, between social crisis and ecological crisis. But the success of the protests in Copenhagen contrasts with the weakness of demonstrations around the world, with some exceptions such as London.
The current crisis raises the urgent need to change the world from below and do so from an anti-capitalist and radical ecosocialist perspective. Anti-capitalism and climate justice are two struggles which must be closely linked. Any prospect of rupture with the current economic model that does not take account of the centrality of the ecological crisis is doomed to failure and any environmental perspective without an anti-capitalist orientation of a break with the current system will deal with the surface of the problem and end up being an instrument at the service of green marketing policies.
Slowing down climate change involves modifying the current model of production, distribution and consumption. A superficial and cosmetic retouching is of no point. Solutions to the ecological crisis mean taking up the foundations of the current capitalist system. If we want climate change we need to change the system. Hence, the need for a true eco-socialist perspective, or eco-communist perspective as Daniel Bensaïd said in one of his last articles.
Also, we must combat the thesis of green neo-Malthusianism blaming the countries of the global South for their high rates of population growth and seeking to control the bodies of women, undermining our right to decide on our bodies. To fight against climate change means to fight poverty: the greater social inequality, the more climate vulnerability. It is necessary to convert productive sectors with a serious social and environmental impact (military, cars, extractive industries and so on), creating employment in ecologically just and social sectors such as organic farming, public services (health, education, transport), among others.
Putting an end to climate change means asserting the right of peoples to food sovereignty.
The current agro-industrial model (delocalised, intensive, mileage intensive, oil-dependent) is one of the maximum greenhouse gas generators. An ecological, local peasant agriculture with short marketing circuits allow, as La Via Campesina say, the cooling of the planet. It should also incorporate the demands of native peoples, control of their lands and natural goods and their worldview and respect for the “pachamama”, “mother earth”, and defence of the “good life”. Enhancing these contributions posing a new type of relationship between humanity and nature is key to addressing climate change and the commodification of life and the planet.
From a North-South perspective, climate justice involves unconditional cancellation of the debt of the countries of the South, an illegal and illegitimate debt and demanding recognition of a social, historical and ecological debt from North to South, the result of centuries of pillaging and exploitation. In cases of disaster, it is necessary to promote mechanisms of “popular relief”. We have seen as climate change increases the vulnerability of the popular sectors, especially in the countries of the South. The earthquakes in Haiti and in Chile are two of the most recent cases. These threats necessitate networks of international solidarity of rank and file social movements allowing a channelling of immediate and effective aid to local populations. The initiative cannot be in the hands of an international “humanitarianism” empty of political content.
The fight against climate change is a fight against the current model of industrial production delocalised, "just in time", massive, dependent on fossil resources and so on. Union bureaucracies tail and legitimise policies of “green capitalism” with the farce of “green technology” to create employment and generate increased prosperity. It is necessary to remove this myth. The trade union left must call into question the current model of growth without limits by another “development” model in accordance with the finite resources of the planet. Climate change and environmental demands must be a central axis of combative trade unionism. Trade unionists cannot see ecologists as enemies and vice versa. All suffer the consequences of climate change and we need to act collectively.
It is wrong to think that we can combat climate change only by individual attitudes changing, and when more when half of the world’s population lives in conditions of “chronic underconsumption”, and is also wrong to think that we can combat climate change only with scientific and technological responses. Structural changes are necessary to the models of production of goods, energy and so on. In this respect, local-based initiatives pose practical alternatives to the dominant model of consumption, production, energy... they have a demonstrative character and raise awareness which is fundamental as a basis.
By its nature, talk of how to confront climate change implies discussing strategy, self-organisation, planning and the tasks that lie ahead for those of us who consider ourselves anti-capitalists.
[Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is author of the book in Spanish Stand Up Against External Debt and co-coordinator of the books (also in Spanish) Supermarkets, No Thanks and Where is Fair Trade Headed?. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.]
Capitalist climate change and our tasks
1. The climate change that is underway is not the product of human activity in general but of the productivist paradigm developed by capitalism and imitated by other systems that claim to be alternatives to the former. Faced with the danger of a social and ecological catastrophe which is without precedent and is irreversible on a human timescale, the system, incapable of calling into question its fundamental logic of accumulation, is engaged in a dangerous technological forward flight from which there is no way out.
The climate change that is underway is not the product of human activity in general but is mainly due to the fact that the capitalist system, guided by considerations of short-term profit and superprofit, has based and continues to base its development not only on the exploitation of labour power but also on the plundering of natural resources, in particular finite and non-renewable reserves of cheap fossil fuels.
i. In the last decades of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, coherent proposals for alternative energy systems based on the utilisation of solar energy were swept aside by the laws of capitalist profitability or torpedoed under the pressure of the coal companies.
ii. After 1945, in order to perpetuate their superprofits, the oil monopolies and the sectors dependent on oil suppressed many technical alternatives and imposed means of transport, consumption and town and country planning dictated only by the desire to sell an ever-increasing quantity of goods, in particular cars and other mass-produced individual consumer goods.
iii. In the course of the last 40 years, in spite of an accumulation of increasingly convincing evidence, scientists’ warnings were ignored by bourgeois governments and the media. On the contrary, they backed up the disinformation campaigns of capitalist lobbies, while at the same time, neoliberal globalisation of production and exchanges was leading to explosive growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
iv. Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the causes of global warming are perfectly documented, the danger is known and recognised by the governments, the technical solutions exist and the gravity of the situation increases with each new report by the experts. Without a voluntarist policy, the experts project that the average rise in temperature could exceed 6°C between now and 2100, in relation to the 18th century.
However, for a +3.25°C rise, (compared to the pre-industrial period), located approximately in the mid range of IPCC projection, costal floods, according to some estimations, would cause between 100 and 150 million victims by 2050, famines up to 600 million and malaria 300 million, while water shortages could affect up to 3.5 billion more people. But capitalism continues in spite of everything to use mainly fossil fuels, including non conventional sources (heavy oils, bituminous sands and shale) as well as the enormous low-price coal reserves. Since the logic of accumulation constitutes its foundation, the system has launched into productivist gambles which imply dangerous technologies: development of nuclear power, genetic engineering aimed at increasing the harmful production of biofuels, “clean coal” with capture and storage of gigatons of CO2 in deep geological layers. For capital, renewable energy sources are just one new field for the accumulation of value, which explains why their implementation can take particularly destructive forms and comes as a complement to being supplied by fossil fuels, not as a replacement for them.
The only limit to capital is capital itself (Marx). The insane race of this system which accumulates wealth and overconsumption at one pole, poverty and scarcity at the other, threatens to precipitate a human and ecological catastrophe that is irreversible on a historical timescale, with irrevocable damage inflicted on ecosystems, in particular on biodiversity. Whereas the threshold of danger, considerably lower than +2°C compared to the preindustrial era, has already been crossed in many regions (island states, Andean countries, Arctic regions, semi-arid zones…) the plans that have been adopted or are being discussed at the level of the imperialist powers announce a warming between +3.2°C and +4.9°C, corresponding to a rise of the sea level of between 60 cm and 2.9 metres at equilibrium (without counting the dislocation of the icecaps). Not only will the Millennium Development Objectives, which are insufficient, not be reached, but in addition hundreds of millions of human beings are exposed to serious degradation of their living conditions. For the poorest among them, their very existence is threatened, due in particular to the risks of coastal flooding, tension over fresh water resources and the expected fall in agricultural productivity in tropical regions.
2. It would be an illusion to believe that climate stabilisation will occur spontaneously due to the depletion of fossil resources. These are amply sufficient to provoke a climate tipping point The stabilisation of the climate at the least dangerous level possible requires a drastic reduction in the consumption of energy and therefore of material production. At the same time, energy and other resources are necessary to ensure the right to development of the three billion men and women who live in conditions that are unworthy of their humanity and who are the first victims of global warming. The capitalist system is incapable of taking up these two challenges separately. To take them up simultaneously amounts for it to squaring the circle. Radical anti-capitalist measures are indispensable in order to implement, independently of the costs, a world plan of transition towards an economical and efficient energy system, based exclusively on renewable sources, capable of satisfying the fundamental needs of humanity.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the stabilisation of the climate at the least dangerous level possible requires world emissions of greenhouse gases to peak before 2015 and decrease by 50 to 85 per cent between now and 2050, compared to 2000. In name of the precaution principle, it is essential to adopt as a minimum the most drastic of these objectives. Indeed, climatic models do not incorporate, or do so very imperfectly, the phenomena known as “non-linear”, in particular the dislocation of the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps and the release of methane from permanently frozen ground (permafrost). However, these phenomena, already perceptible, are likely to very strongly accelerate climate change and to considerably increase its negative effects in coming decades.
To these physical constraints must be added other constraints, of a social, political and technical nature:
i. In order to take into account the differentiated historical responsibilities of imperialist countries and other countries, the IPCC estimates that the first must reduce their emissions by between 25 and 40 per cent between now and 2020 and by between 80 and 95 per cent between now and 2050, compared to 1990, while the output curve of the second must drop by from 15 to 30 per cent compared to existing projections, in all regions in 2050 and in the majority of regions (except Africa) from 2020. Here too, the most drastic objectives must be adopted as a minimum, for the reasons indicated above.
ii. Considering their decisive responsibility for global warming, the share of these objectives which concerns the developed nations must be realised by them using domestic measures, i.e. by reductions of their own emissions. These reductions can be replaced neither by purchases of rights to pollute coming from supposedly “clean” investments in the developing countries or those in transition, nor by the planting of trees -- which does not offer a structural solution, nor by the protection of existing land and forests – the safeguarding of land and forests, necessary in itself, must not allow the polluters to continue to pollute. These so-called compensation measures and the emission rights market foreseen under the Kyoto Protocol have proven perfectly ineffective in environmental terms, even to achieve the utterly insufficient objective of these agreements (a 5.2% reduction in emissions over the 2008-2012 period).
iii. In the name of climate justice and in atonement for their ecological debt, imperialist countries must transfer to the countries dominated by imperialism the knowledge and the technologies that will enable them to develop while respecting the physical constraints of climate stabilisation. They must also finance measures of adaptation to that part of climate change that is inevitable, of which the poor populations of poor countries, mainly women, are the main victims.
iv. From the technical point of view, renewable sources make it amply possible to face up to the future needs of humanity. However, because of the need to change the energy system, the success of the transition over the next 40 years is conditional on an important reduction in the consumption of energy (50 per cent and more in the developed countries). This implies in its turn a significant reduction of material production, so that the key question is the following: it is necessary to produce less overall, while answering the legitimate demands of three billion human beings for whom many fundamental needs remain unsatisfied.
It is a total illusion to believe that this range of conditions could be respected by allotting to carbon a price which takes into account the cost of the damage from climate change. Value is a purely quantitative indicator expressing the quantity of abstract human labour put into motion at a given moment by the development of capital: it is by definition incapable of taking account of natural wealth, of taking account of the needs of future generations, of making the difference between useful or useless concrete labour from the human point of view and of taking into consideration the many parameters, both quantitative and qualitative, of climate stabilisation. This inability is already expressed in practice in the fact that the capitalist monopolies are exerting all their weight, successfully, to prevent the bill for global warming from being laid at their door, so that in the final analysis they determine the rhythms and the forms of the policies pursued, according to their own interests. On the social level, finally, the imposition of a world price for carbon would make the workers and the poor pay the bill for global warming, thus aggravating inequalities, between the global North and the global South but also within the societies of the North and the South.
Capital is unable to resolve the key question because it is structurally incapable of reducing overall material production while producing more for non-solvent needs. To combine the legitimate right to human development and the planned, democratic and rational implementation of a world programme of transition towards an economical and efficient energy system, based exclusively on renewable sources, independently of the cost, is only possible by resorting to radical anti-capitalist measures.
These measures include in particular the expropriation of the credit and energy sectors; a massive reduction of working time (towards a half-day of work) with reduction of work rhythms, without loss of wages and with hiring of extra workers; significant taxing of capitalist profits; the greatest extent possible of re-localisation of production, in particular agricultural production, via support for peasant agriculture; public initiatives in the field of housing and transport, essential in order to change modes of consumption; the constitution of a world fund for adaptation, financed from the profits of the monopolies; public refinancing of research, an end to its subordination to industry and the free transfer of clean technologies towards the countries of the South; as well as mechanisms of democratic participation and control by the populations and by local government bodies, at all these different levels.
3. The poisoned heritage of two hundred years of capitalist development based on fossil fuels, climate change concentrates the crisis of civilisation due to the fact that the potential of this system for social and ecological destruction now outweighs its ability to identify human needs and respond to them. The combination of the economic, climate and food crises in the framework of the capitalist law of population carries within it the threat of a major human catastrophe, and even of a descent into barbarism.
The poisoned heritage of two hundred years of capitalist development, climate change constitutes the clearest demonstration of the global crisis of a system whose potential for social and ecological destruction now outweighs its ability to identify human needs and respond to them. The growth of the productive forces has become the growth of destructive forces, not only because more and more socially and ecologically destructive technologies have been deployed, but also, overall, because capitalist logic, by ruining the climate, is leading humanity towards a whole range of acute difficulties. The capitalist mode of production implies a specific law of population, expressing the permanent need for an “industrial reserve army”.
In the framework of this law and in the context of the historical exhaustion of late capitalism, the combination of the economic, climate and food crises carries within it the profound threat of a wave of “creative destruction” (Schumpeter) of unprecedented scope, implying not only the massive elimination of material productive forces and irreplaceable natural wealth, but also a major risk of physical destruction for hundreds of millions of human beings. This infernal logic is already at work in the convergence between the fractions of big capital invested in agribusiness, energy, cars and petrochemicals which, by rushing to get their hands on land and on the industrial exploitation of the biomass as an energy resource, are accelerating the ruin of small farmers and the rural exodus, threatening indigenous communities and dramatically increasing the number of sub-proletarians who are victims of chronic famine. For lack of a global alternative, the internal dynamics of the system will push ever more strongly down the slippery slope of a global crisis which could be on a level of brutality and barbarism without any historical precedent.
4. Climate change underlines the urgency of both a world socialist alternative and a radical break of the socialist project from productivism. The saturation of the carbon cycle and the exhaustion of non-renewable resources in fact mean that, unlike in the past, the emancipation of the workers is no longer conceivable without simultaneously taking into account the principal natural constraints.
Opposition to capitalist growth, in itself, constitutes neither a project of society nor a strategy for broad social mobilisation in favour of another society. The reduction in material production and consumption is immediately necessary for the stabilisation of the climate because capitalism has led humanity too far into a dead end. But that does not in any way prejudge the future possibilities of development, once the climate system has been stabilised, on the one hand, and on the other hand it constitutes only one quantitative criterion of the necessary transition towards an economy without fossil carbon.
If we do not want to be led towards antisocial or even reactionary conclusions, this quantitative criterion must be combined with qualitative criteria: in particular, redistribution of wealth, reduction of working time without loss of wages, development of the public sector. If these criteria are satisfied, and on condition that it targets useless or harmful productions, the reduction in material production will actually be synonymous with an increase in the wellbeing, the wealth and the quality of life of the vast majority of humanity, through investments in social sectors, a different kind of town and country planning, free access to vital services and the re-conquest of the free time necessary for self-activity, self-organisation and democratic self-management on all levels.
The capitalist system is inseparable from the growth of material production and consumption, but this constitutes an effect, not a cause. It is the production of value, as an abstract form of exchange values, which leads to the permanent tendency to unlimited accumulation of wealth at one pole, and causes at the same time the accumulation of poverty and destitution at the other. A climate policy which did not take into account this double reality would be doomed to failure. The crucial point and the lever of the anti-capitalist alternative thus remain basically those which the socialist project has defined: the mobilisation of the exploited and oppressed against a system based on the race for profit, private ownership of the means of production, the production of commodities, competition and the wages system. But this crucial point and this lever are no longer enough to define the alternative.
The saturation of the carbon cycle constitutes actually the most obvious and most global demonstration of the fact that, unlike in the past, the emancipation of the workers is no longer conceivable without taking into account the principal natural constraints: the limits of the stocks of non-renewable resources on a historical scale, the speed of replenishment of renewable resources, the laws of conversion of energy, the conditions of the functioning of ecosystems and biological cycles and their rhythms.
It is not enough to affirm that socialism must take ecological questions on board. The real challenge consists rather of creating the conditions so that the socialist project is compatible with the global ecology of the terrestrial super-ecosystem. Development cannot only be conceived of with the aim of satisfying real democratically determined human needs, but also according to its sustainability by the environment, and by furthermore accepting that the complexity, the unknown factors and the evolutionary character of the biosphere confer on this undertaking a degree of irreducible uncertainty. The concept of “human control over nature” must be abandoned. The only really possible socialism from now on is one that satisfies real human needs (disentangled from commercial alienation), democratically determined by the interested parties themselves, simultaneously taking care to carefully question ourselves as to the environmental impact of these needs and the way in which they are satisfied.
To think in terms of the interpenetration of the social and the ecological implies first of all to go beyond the partitioned, utilitarian and linear vision of nature as the physical platform from which humanity operates, as the store from which it draws the resources that are necessary for the production of its social existence and as the dumping ground where it deposits the waste matter of this activity. In reality, nature is simultaneously the platform, the store, the dumping ground and the whole range of living processes which, thanks to the external supply of solar energy, make matter circulate between these poles, while constantly reorganising it.
Waste and the way of disposing of it must therefore be compatible, both in quality and in quality, with the capacities and the rhythms of recycling by the ecosystems, in order not to ruin the proper functioning of the biosphere. However, this proper functioning depends on the number and the diversity of the biological operators, as well as on the quality and complexity of the multiple chains of relations which link them, the balance of flows determining in the final analysis the supplying of humanity with resources.
To think in terms of the interpenetration of the social and the ecological implies secondly to learn the lessons from the reality that a mode of production is not defined only by its relations of production and property but also by its technological structures, which are modelled by its energy choices. Climate change shows this clearly: the energy sources used by a mode of production and the methods employed to convert energy in order to satisfy human needs (for food, heat, and light) are not socially neutral but have a marked class character. The capitalist energy system is centralised, anarchic, wasteful, inefficient, dead-labour intensive, based on non-renewable sources and characterised by a tendency towards overproduction of commodities.
The socialist transformation of society requires its progressive destruction and its replacement by a decentralised system, planned, economical, and efficient, living-labour intensive, based exclusively on renewable sources and directed towards the production of durable practical values, which can be recycled and reused. This transformation does not only concern the “production” of energy in a narrow sense but the entire industrial apparatus, agriculture, transport, leisure and town and country planning.
The energy/climate challenge forces us to conceive of the socialist revolution not only as the destruction of the power of the bourgeois state, the creation of a proletarian state which starts to wither away as soon as it is established and progressive phasing-in of self-management by the masses, but also as the beginning of a process of destruction of the old capitalist productive apparatus and its replacement by an alternative apparatus, utilising different energy sources, different technologies and different structures in the service of democratically decided objectives.
This extremely profound historical upheaval can start in one country or in a group of countries, but it can only take on its full character and be completed after the victory of the socialist revolution on a world scale, once the abolition of the principal inequalities of development have made it possible to satisfy the basic right of each human being to an existence worthy of the name. It postulates in fact the preliminary realisation of energy autonomy, in particular the food autonomy of different countries. Far from being synonymous with the end of human development, it implies an important progress of science and technique as well as of the social power to democratically apply them, with the active participation of everyone, within the framework of a culture of “prudently taking care” of the biosphere, for which the contribution of indigenous communities will be invaluable.
Revolutionary Marxism considers that, once fundamental human needs have been satisfied, the qualitative development of humanity will become more important than the quantitative development. This conception is coherent with that of Marx, for whom real wealth lies in free time, social relations and the comprehension of the world. The perspective of a communism using exclusively renewable energy sources, mainly solar, is situated in the continuity of this non- productivist thought, deepening it and drawing new conclusions in terms of demands, tasks and programme. This deepening justifies the use of the new concept of ecosocialism.
Representing the concentrated expression of the common fight against the exploitation of human labour and the destruction of natural resources by capitalism, ecosocialism does not proceed from an idealistic and chimerical vision of the “harmony” that is to be established between humanity and nature, but from the materialist necessity of managing the exchanges of matter between society and the environment, while controlling consciously, collectively and democratically the tension between human needs and the proper functioning of the ecosystems.
5. Our tasks
5.1. Prepare the activists of the social movements so that they can aid the development of the consciousness of the masses and contribute to building a mass mobilisation on climate. The fight for the climate requires in priority the construction of relationships of social forces. Faced with the urgency of the question and with the criminal policies of capitalist governments, we work in all countries for the building of a powerful unitary mass movement, coordinated on a world scale. This movement must be conceived of as a grid of social resistances existing on different terrains, with convergent coordinated actions and periodic pluralist demonstrations, on a common minimal platform.
Its goal must be to force governments to aim for at least the most radical reductions in emissions put forward by the IPCC, respecting the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” and of social and democratic rights as well as the right of everyone to a human existence worthy of the name. Mass mobilisation in defence of the climate is a difficult task, due in particular to the double de-phasing, spatial and temporal, between the phenomenon and its effects.
A broad campaign of information on global warming and its impacts is necessary. It must be aimed in particular at the activist nuclei of the various social movements and the political formations of the left, because these nuclei play a decisive role in establishing the concrete link between the global climate threat and particular social problems, and in deducing from that strategies that make it possible to combine social struggles and the fight for the environment.
5.2. Build a left current which links the fight for the climate to social justice. The change that is necessary cannot be obtained without the mobilisation and the active participation of the exploited and oppressed who make up the vast majority of the population. Capitalist climate policy makes this participation impossible because it is unacceptable on the social level. This policy in fact implies the reinforcement of imperialist domination and of capitalist competition and violence; therefore of exploitation, oppression, social inequality, competition between workers, violation of rights and private appropriation of resources.
In particular, this policy does not provide any answer to the major challenge represented by the jobs, the wages and the social gains of the millions of workers employed in the sectors that emit large quantities of greenhouse gases. So it can only encounter legitimate social resistance. The big environmental NGOs try to radicalise the climatic objectives of governments while refusing to see that this radicalisation involves at the same time the accentuation of antisocial attacks. This is a dead end. We defend the need for a combined fight for the climate and for social justice. Within the broad movement, we work for the constitution of a left pole which links these two dimensions and which argues consistently against proposals based on market instruments, accumulation, neo-colonial domination and technological forward flight. This pole will seek to bring together elements of the trade-union, ecologist, global justice, feminist and third-worldist lefts, the “decreasing” left, the organisations of the radical left, critical scientists, etc.
5.3. Conduct the ideological fight against green neo-Malthusianism, in defence of the poor and of women’s rights. By its nature as a global problem and by the extent of the catastrophes which it is likely to cause, global warming favours the development of a whole series of ideological currents which, under cover of radical ecology, try to rehabilitate the theses of Malthus by packaging them in an apocalyptic discourse with strong religious accents. These currents find an echo at the highest level in certain sections of the ruling classes, where the disappearance of a few hundred million human beings is easier to imagine than the disappearance of capitalism. Because of this, they represent a potentially serious threat to the poor, particularly to women.
The fight against these currents represents an important task, which our organisations must assume, as such and in liaison with the women’s movement. The population level is obviously one parameter of the evolution of the climate, but we have to categorically combat the false idea that population growth is a cause of climate change. The demographic transition is largely underway in the developing countries, and is progressing more quickly than had been envisaged. It is desirable that it continues, but that will be a result of social progress, the development of social security systems, the information that women dispose of and their right to control their own fertility (including the right to abortion in correct conditions). This is obviously a long-term policy. Short of resorting to barbaric methods, no policy of population control makes it possible to respond to climatic urgency.
5.4. Introduce the question of the climate into the platforms and the struggles of the social movements. In the perspective of a broad mobilisation rooted in existing struggles, we act so that the defence of the climate becomes a major concern of the social movements and that it finds a concrete expression in their platforms of demands, on all terrains. For example:
- the fight for peace: the production and the use of arms constitute an unacceptable folly in relation to climate change… which is itself a possible cause of additional conflicts;
- the fight against poverty, for the right to development and social protection: the ability to adapt to climate change is directly proportional to the level of resources and development. Social inequality increases vulnerability and handicaps energy change;
- the fight of women: adaptation to climate change reinforces the importance and the urgency of the specific demands of women for equal rights, for society to take responsibility for the care and protection of children, against the double working day, for the right to abortion and contraception;
- the fight for employment: to radically reduce the consumption of energy, to reorganise the territory and the cities, to take care of biodiversity, to develop public transport and to substitute renewable sources for fossil fuels offers a gigantic reserve of quality employment;
- the fight for access to land, water and natural resources and for an organic peasant agriculture: rural communities which practice a labour-intensive organic agriculture know how to increase the organic matter content of land of and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture;
- the fight against globalisation and the liberalisation of agricultural markets: a cause of the ruin of rural populations, famine, rural exodus and/or the plundering of ecosystems, the liberalisation of these markets is also a major source of emissions, direct (transport of products for export) and indirect;
- the fight for the right of asylum: faced with the increase in the number of environmental, and in particular climatic, refugees, freedom of circulation is essential and constitutes the only response worthy of humanity;
- the fight of Indigenous communities for their rights: by their knowledge and their mode of exploitation of ecosystems, in particular forests, these communities are the most capable of preserving and developing carbon sinks;
- the fight against the flexibility and the precarisation of work, against the lengthening of working time: work schedules that are cut and made flexible and capitalist campaigns in favour of the increased mobility of the labour force workers to use cars. “Just in time” production is a major source of emissions of greenhouse gases in the transport sector. The reduction of working time is a necessary condition for the development on a mass scale of alternative patterns of consumption and leisure;
- the fight against privatisations, for a public sector of quality in the fields of transport, energy and water. Only a free public transport sector of quality can reconcile the right of everyone to mobility and the reduction of emissions. The liberalisation of electrical production complicates the introduction into the network of intermittent renewable sources. Only a public enterprise not working for profit can take up the challenge that consists of suppressing within two or three decades the totality of emissions in the housing sector.
5.5. Outline the perspective of a global anticapitalist plan for social and ecological reconversion. In this framework put forth demands concretely linking the struggle for the climate and the struggle for meeting social needs, in particularly the right to work.
The leaderships of the big international trade-union confederations accompany capitalist climatic policies in exchange for the possibility of them negotiating certain of their modalities. This orientation is concretised in the proposal of a “Green Deal” based on the illusion that green technologies will make it possible to absorb unemployment and give the impulse to a new long wave of prosperity and capitalist expansion. The trade-union bureaucracies accept the requirements of productivism and capitalist profitability as well as the instruments of the dominant climate policy: government aid to “green” companies, “ecological taxation”, Clean Development Mechanism, the market in emission rights, even support for nuclear energy and biofuels.
This policy is likely to make the trade union movement co-responsible for catastrophes. It sows division among workers on an international level, and between sectors within the different countries. To take up the challenge the trade union left must get away from a cramped vision centred on the redistribution of wealth, in order to contest the very conception of wealth and the way in which wealth is produced i.e. the very foundations of the mode of production.
To the bureaucratic trade union leaderships’ policies we oppose the prospect of a global anti-capitalist plan for social and ecological reconstruction. This plan includes the defence and strengthening of the public sector (in particular the transport and energy sectors), the right to work, social and income protection as fundamental rights, collective reconversion under workers’ control of workers in useless of harmful production, a radical cut in working time with no loss of wages with a slowing of production rhythms and compensatory hiring, the creation of green jobs in public firms and free basic services. Based on this framework we will intervene in struggles, notably around industrial restructuring in ecologically non-sustainable sectors (such as the car industry) to propose concrete solutions to the infernal choice between continuing production and destroying jobs. We demand that governments create ecologically useful public jobs in sectors such as insulation of dwellings; public transport and the development of renewable energy sources independently of their costs.
5.6. The massive transfer of clean technologies towards the countries dominated by imperialism and the financing of adaptation to the effects of climate change in these countries require a sharing of assets and knowledge on a world scale, therefore substantial taxation of capitalist profits. The rescue of the climate requires a sharing of assets and knowledge on a world scale. It must thus be related to:
- the cancellation of the debt of the third world and restitution to the people of the assets that the dictators of countries of the South have placed in Western banks;
- lifting of bank secrecy, suppression of tax havens, taxing of inheritances, a tax on speculative movements, etc;
- a substantial increase in the budgets of the imperialist countries that are allocated to government aid to development;
- the creation, in addition to this aid, of a single world fund for the adaptation of the developing countries to the inevitable effects of climate change and for the transfer of clean technologies towards the public sector of these countries, without financial conditions;
- the resources for this fund should come from taxing the profits and the excessive superprofits of the economic sectors most responsible for climate change (in particular the oil sector, coal, cars and electrical production);
- suppression of the system of patents in health and in technologies that make it possible to produce essential consumer goods and services (transport, light industry, water and energy, communications) so that all the populations of the planet can have access to basic goods;
- a system of financial compensation for the countries of the South which give up exploiting their fossil fuel resources.
5.7 The emissions of the countries dominated by imperialism will not be able to diminish by at least 30 per cent compared to projections unless the capitalist model of development is called into question. The contribution of the countries dominated by imperialism to the stabilisation of the climate at the least dangerous level possible can only be achieved by an endogenous development, responding to the needs of the great mass of the population, therefore linked to land reform in favour of peasant agriculture and to a reorientation of production towards the domestic market.
To reconcile the right to human development with the stabilisation of the climate thus requires taking measures against the local ruling classes, who use the right to development as a pretext to try and refuse any obstacle to the burning of fossil fuels, who plunder natural resources, appropriate the forests for themselves, act as intermediaries for the sale of carbon credits, produce biofuels and export agricultural food products or industrial products at low prices for the markets of the developed countries. To prevent them being used to fuel this socially and ecologically harmful model, the funds and the technological means that are placed at the disposal of the countries of the South must be placed under the democratic control of the populations and their social movements.
5.8 Indigenous peoples by the defence of their way of life and their type of relationship with the environment, play a leading role in the struggle for forest protection, thus of the climate and the environment in general. The peoples of Latin America, in particular, have a conception of linked to their ancestral civilisation that is the polar opposite of the one promoted by bourgeois ideology. They do not see themselves as owners of their land; rather, they see themselves as belonging to the land – and this idea summarises the central thrust of their philosophy, which is inspired by respect for the Earth. This is why they call their territory Mother Earth, or Pacha Mama. They nurture, maintain and cultivate another, community and solidarity-based, model of life, one which is deeply connected to nature.
As such, the socio-political organisation of aboriginal peoples on their territory does not limit itself to the borders imposed on them by the imperialists. The threats to their way of life, social structures, natural resources and peoples – as a result of the countless invasions of their territories – are an attack on their inalienable rights; and this prompts them to organise themselves and to resist the predations of multinationals carried out within the framework of the free trade agreements or the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America.
We must support their demands and oppose any occupation of their territories by extractive industries, and any building of hydroelectric stations, railways, roads and dams without the previous consent of these peoples. As the environmental question is clearly taking on a strategic role and place in the anticapitalist struggle, building an alliance between workers in countryside and towns and aboriginal peoples is one of the greatest challenges of our epoch. What is at stake in these struggles is also the preservation of the last tropical forests which play a major role in the climate system.
5.9 Oppose technological forward flight and incorporate all the great ecological challenges into a really sustainable perspective of development. The history of capitalism is littered with environmental crises that were “solved” without a global ecological vision, by the implementation of partial technological answers subordinated to the demands of profitability, whose harmful environmental effects appeared later. To solve the climate/energy crisis while following this same method of the sorcerer’s apprentice is likely to have even more dangerous consequences, in particular in three fields: the increased recourse to nuclear power and genetically modified organisms and the geological storage of CO2 in the framework of a new wave of exploitation of coal.
To oppose these capitalist responses is one of the most important tasks. They should be denounced as symbols of the madness of unbridled capitalist growth, as the absurd attempt of the system to jump over its own head in order to maintain in spite of everything the accumulation that generates profit. In a more general way, the climatic challenge brings together all the environmental questions.
The response must thus integrate all the great ecological challenges, in particular: (i) the defence of the tropical forest, respecting the rights of the indigenous communities which live off its resources (carbon sinks); (ii) the defence of biodiversity; (iii) rational and public management of water resources; (iv) the fight against the poisoning of the biosphere by the several hundred thousand molecules resulting from petrochemicals, which do not exist in nature and thus in some cases cannot be broken up by its reducing agents; (v) the elimination of the gases that destroy stratospheric ozone and their replacement by compounds which do not have other dangerous ecological impacts; (vi) the fight against atmospheric pollution and its consequences for human health (asthma, cardiovascular diseases,) and for the ecosystems (acidification, tropospheric ozone).
5.10 Denounce the gulf between the capitalist plans and the diagnosis of the situation by scientists. Establish links with critical scientists. Pose the questions of intellectual property rights and the social role of research. The claim by governments which are trying to make us believe that their capitalist and liberal climate policies are founded on “science” must be fought vigorously. To do this, we must denounce the gulf that separates the objectives of governments from the conclusions that the precaution principle makes it necessary to draw from the reports of the IPCC. This denunciation implies assimilating the essence of the scientific expertise while criticising the dominant ideological and social presuppositions which are conveyed by a large majority of the experts.
The left must establish relations with scientists, invite them to communicate their expertise to the social movements, challenge them on their general political positions, on the basis of their own scientific expertise, push them to speak out on the contradiction between the global rational solutions which the fight against global warming requires, on the one hand, and on the other hand the extreme compartmentalisation of science in the service of partial capitalist rationality.
Considering the place occupied by scientific expertise in the development of policies, it is of considerable importance to establish relations between the social movements and critical and humanistic researchers. Within this framework, we develop a more general point of view on the role of science and research in the fight for the stabilisation of the climate in a framework of social justice. We do not refuse technological solutions, nor the concepts of development and progress.
We argue on the contrary for scientific research and technique to be freed from the influence of capital so that their potential can be placed massively and quickly at the service of progress in energy efficiency, rational management of resources and the sustainable development of renewable energy sources. We demand massive public refinancing of research, an end to the contracts which tie universities to industry and to finance capital, the democratic definition of research priorities in the context of the transition, in a framework of social justice, towards a society without fossil fuels.
5.11 Fight against the attempts to make individuals feel guilty, but assert the need for energy sobriety as far as socially possible. The discourses of governments aimed at making people feel guilty, which place responsibility for global warming on the behaviour of individuals, seek to conjure away social inequality, to hide the responsibility of capitalism, seek to divert attention from the profound structural changes that are necessary and pave the way for unjust measures such as the “carbon tax”.
It is an illusion to believe that the climate could be saved by a movement of “cultural contagion” against overconsumption, whereas more than half of humanity lives in a situation of chronic underconsumption. But it is also an illusion to gamble on hypothetical revolutionary scientific breakthroughs in order not to put in question individual overconsumption and practices which result from it. Instead of counterposing actions in the sphere of consumption to structural changes in the sphere of production, the first must be conceived of as a means of making people aware of the need for the second.
Alternative social practices, democratic campaigns and mobilisations, even those which only involve a minority, which contest productivism and consumerism, can also play a positive role in the formation of the collective consciousness that structural changes are necessary, in the sphere of production, and that these changes will be accompanied by a higher quality of life.
5.12 Develop a practice of popular aid in the event of a catastrophe. Climate change considerably increases the risks of catastrophes, affecting more particularly the workers and the poor, in particular in the developing countries. In the face of this threat, we must prepare to intervene with the social movements on two different terrains: the terrain of demands, consisting of placing states and governments before their responsibilities; and the terrain of direct, popular and interdependent aid, taken in charge by the local populations and their organisations with the assistance of networks of activists on a world level.
The experience gained in natural disasters shows in fact that these popular aid initiatives are faster, more directly directed towards the poor and their real needs and are less expensive. Moreover, they favour the development of a different kind of social relations and of contestation of the established order.
Make the Cochabamba gathering a new stage in the fight for an anticapitalist response to climate change
By the 16th World Congress of the Fourth International
- Denounces the caricature of an agreement that 25 major polluting countries reached on the sidelines of the Copenhagen climate summit; the agreement sets aside the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. They seek to impose this agreement on the peoples of the world; it is tailor made for the interests of big capital and capitalist appropriation of resources. It represents a grave threat for the workers of the world, for the poor, for peasants, women and Indigenous peoples, as well as for ecosystems;
- Celebrates the initiative taken by Bolivia's President Evo Morales to hold a Peoples’ Summit on Climate and the Rights of Mother Earth in order to make the voices of Indigenous peoples heard; and to develop a common response to the imperialist policy of dividing up the world and the atmosphere between the big powers. We call on all political and social forces in struggle against exploitation and oppression to support the Cochabamba gathering and participate as far as possible;
- Salutes those communities who defend the ecosystems they developed and struggle for their rights, way of life and methods of collective appropriation that respect the environment. In so doing, they have become a driving force in the climate movement and oppose the capitalist logic of neoliberal commodification of resources. They are a source of inspiration for the creation of a new relationship between society and nature;
- Calls on revolutionary Marxists to ensure that the Cochabamba gathering paves the way for a broadening and deepening of the international mobilisation of social movements -– above and beyond specific cultural references -— for an anti-neoliberal and anti-capitalist response to climate change.
February 27, 2010
[These documents report first appeared at International Viewpoint, magazine of the Fourth International.]