COP27 (the 27e Conference of the Parties on Climate Change) meets this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6-18. The COP is the largest United Nations conference on climate change, held annually in different countries and attended by around 25,000 representatives from different governments.
Greta Thunberg, a well-known Swedish climate activist, criticized the global summit as a “greenwashing” forum that isn’t really meant to change the whole system but only encourages paltry change. Thunberg’s statement highlights the stance taken by a growing number of left-wing activists in the Philippines who are soon coming together to launch a movement called ecosocialism.
The character of capitalism
Capitalism cannot solve global warming and ecosystem destruction because these are caused by the operations of the system itself, from the burning of coal and fossil oils to the inauguration of the petrochemical industry, industrial agriculture, mining, massive logging, etc. Capitalism is based on private ownership of the means of production, especially large means of production, by a few rich capitalists or corporations. It is in the nature of capitalism to destroy the environment and ecosystem as it pursues its basic need to make profits and accumulate capital.
In the history of capitalism, the means of production have always been in private hands. While capitalism introduces technological advances, it suffers from two deficiencies. First, capitalism is based on competition, where many capitals compete for maximum profit and relentless accumulation of capital, hence its tendency to ignore the harmful effects of its production processes on the environment.
Second, the system is based on the exploitation of workers, resulting in extreme inequality in society marked by a few individuals and families comprising the super-rich of society on one side and a large number of super-poor on the ‘other. end.
Capitalism is closely tied to the fossil fuel industry
In the history of Western capitalism in the early 1800s, industrial production expanded through the establishment of factories using water-powered machinery, such as the spinning and weaving machines of industrial cotton. Water from streams and rivers fueled factory operations. Watermills use clean, renewable energy in their operations. With the invention of the steam engine, it was then replaced by steam generated by burning coal, which became the predominant form of energy.
As coal mining became widespread, factories were redeveloped and began to use coal power. Coal was mobile. Capitalists could move production to where the sources of labor were, rather than moving people to where the source of energy was.
After coal came oil. Gasoline has become a main source of energy. Gasoline fueled the new machines invented at that time: cars, planes, tanks, warships and submarines. The fossil fuel industry then branched out into a number of important affiliated industries, such as the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, synthetic, and plastics industries. No wonder the capitalists and corporations that dominated the fossil fuel industry then ventured into pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals in the 1900s, like Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, who pioneered the pharmaceutical industry.
The burning of fossil fuels has exacerbated the problem of global warming because it has led to the accumulation of massive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere compared to previous modes of production. This threatens humanity and the globe, but this type of production cannot be stopped because the world is controlled by a few elite clans who not only control the means of production and the economy but also the state and the political system. .
In addition to climate change emanating primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, there has been an increasing loss of biodiversity due to widespread deforestation, industrial chemical production and large-scale mining. They destroy the ecosystem immeasurably and irreplaceably.
Socialism is the alternative
The only alternative is a system that is the antithesis of what capitalism is. This system is socialism, where the means of production and the processes of production are not privately owned but rather in the hands of the workers or in the hands of the communities run by the community members themselves.
However, the first model of socialism, which is now called 20th century socialism, failed in several respects. She had to face a world largely dominated by capitalism and the capitalist market system. In competition with the global capitalist system, its focus shifted to producing more goods not only needed by the population, but also goods and materials that could defend and arm themselves against the encirclement of capitalism.
This 20e the socialism of the century adopted what is today criticized by several leftist groups as a “productivist” system of production. It is the idea that the goal of the development of society is to achieve “more production” and “growth”, similar to capitalism. This type of development ignores sustainability and the impact of production processes on the environment and ecology.
Socialists proclaimed that the main principle of socialism is to produce goods in “abundance”. The abundance of goods ensures the establishment of the socialist banner, “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. We thought that would be the solution to the problem of inequality in society. It turns out that changing the relations of production to ensure that the working masses benefit from the fruits of their own production is not the whole story. The productive forces, including the production process and technology, are also important factors to consider. There is nothing “green” about the idea that we can simply focus on changing the relations of production.
The socialist left in general is beginning to understand that it must abandon the idea of a development that only aims to produce more and more goods, and must ensure that the production of the needs of society feeds the environment and ecosystem.
What is ecosocialism?
It is an ecologically based socialism. In a re-reading of the work of Karl Marx, the founder of scientific socialism, the left discovered that he did more than talk about the need for abundance to solve inequalities in society. Marx articulated the need to repair the environment, or the problem caused by what he called the “metabolic breakdown” in the functioning of the capitalist system. Acknowledging capitalism’s continued breach in the ecological foundations of the planet, Marx warned that in producing for the needs of humanity, we must ensure that the environment is protected and even enriched for future generations.
It reminded me of a popular quote from tribal hero Macli-ing Dulag, who was assassinated in 1980 by Marcos military forces for his opposition to the Chico River dam project. He said, “How can we talk about ownership of the land when the land survives us?
Now it is clear: there is no socialism without an ecological foundation. And the climate crisis and the destruction of the ecosystem can only be solved in a socialist system based on ecological principles. – Rappler.com
Sonny Melencio is the chairman of the socialist party Partido Lakas ng Masa. His group launches the ecosocialism movement at the University Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City on November 25, 2022.