A Treatise on Climatic Crisis and Political-Economic Critique
I. THE FACTS OF THE SITUATION
Anthropogenic climate change, in its various components (ocean acidification, atmospheric carbonization, global warming), is real, and it is actively harmful to a wide variety of species, most significantly for our purposes the general masses of humanity and especially the poor and those vulnerable for various reasons (e.g. those in low-lying coasts and very polluted areas). It is an ongoing crisis. These facts are sufficiently proven by the things said by experts on the various ecological sciences that it should be unnecessary for me to provide further evidence here, and that disputing them is silly.
The contradiction Expansion of Capital↔Stability of Ecology, which henceforth I will refer to for the sake of brevity as EC↔SE, the basic contradiction between the drive of capital to expand infinitely and the fundamentally finite capacity of geo-ecological systems to accommodate it, which is the essential character of the phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change, is growing in severity as a secondary contradiction in the present situation of global society under capitalism. The question of how to approach it is becoming an ever-more significant thread in the tapestry of political-economic philosophical discussion, with some elements in bourgeois politics trying to deny the problem and others promoting bad outlooks on it and phony solutions to it. Of course, either of these is as misguided as the other. Real solutions, as we shall find later in this treatise, can only be found in the resolution of the root fundamental contradictions of modern capitalism, the contradiction of capitalist exploitation (bourgeoisie↔proletariat) and that of imperialist pillaging (imperialist states and finance capital↔people of colonized and semicolonized countries), through revolution.
II. WRONG OUTLOOKS ON THE SITUATION
With it being understood that anthropogenic climate change is a real and urgent problem in the world, a contradiction that must be resolved (i.e. EC↔SE), one can identify wrong outlooks that exist on this situation. The most obvious one, of course, and probably the worst one, is denialism. With global warming beginning to be apparent enough that the increase in heat and dryness can actually be felt in some places (including where I live), denialism of its causes and reality is at this point akin to denying the color of the sky or the shape of the Earth, and yet still it festers. It festers, of course, with the aid of the major bodies of finance capital in the oil industry, because its existence is politically convenient for them. Look, for instance, at the punditry of Prager “University” and its funding by the Koch family, the Wilks brothers, and their companies; is it any wonder that Dennis Prager et. al. have an interest in convincing misguided proletarian and petit-bourgeois youths that oil capitalism isn’t as bad as they think, when his primary benefactors are several of its main participants?? Denialism of anthropogenic climate change is brazenly and directly promoted by big capitalists like the Kochs and Wilkses in order to maintain their liberty to go on causing it with needless expansion and overproduction in the most ecologically damaging areas of industry, for the sake of their own profit. It, and they, must be smashed with all necessary force and fervor.
Also wrong, though, and also dangerous, is climatic fatalism. Many now seem to regard anthropogenic climate change as a kind of looming apocalypse. This is cataclysmically misguided. In the first place, the problem is not looming, it is here. Anthropogenic climate change should not be viewed (as much liberal rhetoric views it) as a future cataclysm to be prevented, but rather as a problem that exists right now and will continue to, and which must be persistently mitigated. In the second place, the problem is not apocalyptic in scope, nor is any, barring extraordinary cosmic events. The whole framework of thinking of cataclysms in terms of the “end of the world” is, really, irrational. It implies that “the world” is a single clearly defined state of affairs that can have a discrete end; it isn’t really, rather what it is is a conglomeration of distinct objects and processes which are always ending and always beginning, always being eliminated and replaced by the dialectical systems of interactions within the world. A cataclysm is a change, not an ending- look, for instance, at the last 5 great extinctions, none of which ended the world. Viewing major change as an “end of the world” is anti-factual, and worse, it breeds pessimism. Viewing anthropogenic climate change as a looming, and (as the fatalists always seem to end up concluding, the moment this or that footprint-shrinking scheme fails) inevitable, “apocalypse” does nothing to motivate change or effort- it only promotes apathy in the conviction that nothing one does or says matters, and so one can rest easy in doing nothing and caring about nothing, only letting the world slide by into oblivion.
Climatic fatalism seems co-occurent with another bad view: climatic elitism. This is an attitude of elitist petty-bourgeois and labour-aristocrat liberals, and some faux-progressive big bourgeoisie, in which a subject sees themself as a paragon of sustainability, but flies into fits of melancholia and pessimism on the grounds that everybody else is a miserable leech destroying the planet. This is inseparable from anti-masses and misanthropic attitudes, and in particular from disdain toward the poor and disadvantaged, especially disdain of urban petit-bourgeoisie toward rural proletarians. “The problem,” says the climatic elitist, “is those stupid hicks in the countryside with their big gas-guzzling trucks! Why can’t everyone buy a Tesla?”; never mind that the working classes in rural areas often need the “gas-guzzling” vehicles so maligned by urbanites in order to handle ranch work and poor roads (while city-residents often own cars when they could really get by with bicycles and buses), and never mind that the ones dumping crude oil in the ocean are not the rural poor, but rather the owners of companies like BP- liberal, wealthy, well-educated haute bourgeoisie!
All of this, of course, is just one aspect of the way bourgeois culture misdirects justified discontent surrounding the proletariat↔bourgeoisie contradiction toward the urban↔rural contradiction instead. There is an enormous fad among urban liberals (mostly but not all petit-bourg. and labour-arist.), for instance, of blaming all the bigoted and reactionary policies of the Republican Party and especially of former US president Donald Trump upon the white-majority working class of rural areas, particularly the South and Appalachia, who are known by such dirty and ugly slurs as “white trash,” “hillbillies,” etc. This is of course absurd, and obscene to boot- Trump could never have won leadership of the bourgeois state apparatus without a horrific amount of capital, and this capital was certainly not provided by the Appalachian working class, some of the poorest people in the country, oppressed by the very sort of capitalist exploiters who are really to blame. Indeed, while the liberals love to blame the “uneducated white poor” for reactionary policies, they are often these policies’ victims. All too many transgender liberals are ready to renounce every inhabitant of Arkansas or Texas, for instance, because of those states’ transphobic policies, not realizing that it is poor working class Arkansan and Texan transgender people, and their friends and loved ones, who are suffering from these policies, which are crimes not of the masses in these states but of the bourgeoisie and their bourgeois governments. (The Urban↔Rural contradiction amongst the people has long been seen as socially significant, and is of particular significance in relation to this topic; we will look at it with some help from Mao briefly in the last section).
Climatic elitism is an unacceptable wedge driving apart disparate elements of the People, a contradiction amongst them that must be resolved by education as to the real nature of the problem: as we shall explore, a problem of capitalism and the fault of the bourgeoisie. The message we must send to elitist urban liberals, frankly and earnestly, is this: You are not better than “white trash.” You are not better than a coal miner. You are not better than a West Virginian. You are not better than someone who lives in a trailer and drives a pickup. Hating these people is reactionary, not progressive. The poor white rural working class may have certain bigotries which need to be corrected by revolutionary education, but then, so too do the urban petit-bourgeoisie, and indeed everyone. We must remember who the real enemy is: not the downtrodden and oppressed rural worker who has been misled into holding reactionary views, but rather the bourgeois plotters who have misled him!
Climatic elitism itself co-occurs with what we shall call climatic consumerism. The climatic elitist feels justified in their elitism, in feeling confidently that they are doing their part while nonetheless lamenting the inevitability of omni-doom because everyone else has failed, because they are always sure to consume the latest green-painted commodities, swallowing the pill of advertisers’ claims to care for and nurture ecological sustainability. “I bought these metal straws, and so I’m better than you.” The metal straws, of course, came in a plastic bag. We must eliminate with absolute certainty the notion that individual consumption habits are the resolution to the contradiction EC↔SE, and furthermore that persons lucky enough to be able to choose sustainable personal habits are better people than anyone else. Once again, the contradiction EC↔SE is a contradiction between the infinite drive of capital to expand and the finite capacity of ecological systems to support its expansion. Because the transition of surplus value from the form of commodities to the form of re-investable money-capital, facilitated through sales in the market, is an essential part of the social circuitry of capital’s expansion and reproduction, buying any commodity contributes to the contradiction, and so we should not shame anyone for buying one commodity over another, especially when their ability to pick and choose is limited by education and means.
EC↔SE cannot be resolved by expanding this capital over that capital, that of an eco-corp over that of an oil corp; its intensification must be limited and it ultimately resolved by the obstruction and ultimate abolition of the expansion of the whole social aggregation of finance capital generally. This is not done, cannot be done, by any means which constitute peaceful coexistence with the capitalist political-economic order. Actions which truly contribute to protection of ecological stability and to the de-intensification of EC↔SE, then, are not acts of individual consumption but acts of organized and targeted revolutionary terror. We must cheer on, for instance, those militant organizations in South America which have taken it upon themselves to destroy and impede means of production used for capital-expansion by big logging capitalists, who are guilty both of horrific ecological crimes and of far more horrific acts of genocide against indigenous nations and protonational groups, such as the Mapuche (a nation) and the Kawahiva (AKA “Rio Pardo Indians,” an uncontacted group, whose form of political-economy is still of primitive communality and who thus cannot be termed a nation in the sense in which nations exist under capitalism or pre-full stage communist socialism, but who are nonetheless victims of vile crimes depriving them of life and liberty, from which they must be defended).
Ultimately, though, delaying the intensification of EC↔SE does not end climatic crisis, or even mollify it, it only slows it down. The actual resolution of the contradiction, and the genuine mitigation of the problem over time, must take a different form, a fully revolutionary one.
III. WHO TO BLAME, WHAT TO DO
IIIa. WHO TO BLAME
“Anthropogenic climate change,” though I have used it for lack of a better one, is a bad term. It implies the guilt is on humanity, on the anthro-, generally. It ultimately is not, and this must be understood. It is on finance capital and its owners, the big and imperialist bourgeoisie.
I have already stated that the expansion of capital is the root cause of ecological crisis at present, that the contradiction at the heart of the essence of this crisis is EC↔SE. If longwindedness and repetition can be forgiven, this must be expanded upon, so as to be proven. My collection Essays on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism includes an essay on this, and while I would today criticize its somewhat fatalist rhetoric, I will quote its analysis some here.
Major contributors to anthropogenic climate change include livestock industries, automobile transportation and other fossil fuel burning, plastics pollution, and logging and forest-clearing. We can examine each of these individually.
On livestock, the old essay says “Lastly, the other great producer of CO2 is the animal-product industry, most especially the beef and dairy sector. This, indeed, has been widely called the very worst! The production of beef and milk, compared to the rest of modern industry, is like a vision of yesteryear. There are no neat and clean workspaces, no clean and sterile-white office spaces. There are only the great expanses of cattle packed together, eternally pumping the fetid gaseous by-products of their biological functions into the air. Why is this industry such a wasteland, so devoid of precautions for the good of the planet and the working majority of its inhabitants? Surely the reader knows the answer by now, so I will keep this last piece of proof brief. The production of beef and dairy is mastered by the capitalist class, whose sole interest (for the most part) is the growth of their capital. They have no desire to make it clean or ethical or environmentally sustainable, only to make it efficiently produce surplus use value they may sell to grow their capital.” Indeed, the livestock industries are very major contributors to anthropogenic climate change. The EPA has agriculture pegged as the producer of 11% of greenhouse gas emissions- these numbers would have them losing out to transportation as the “very worst,” although a research think tank in DC has suggested, perhaps dubiously, that the percentage is much higher. Of course, it is a grotesque irony that, even as poor people around the world and in imperialist war zones are starving, a food industry is paradoxically overproducing to such an extent that it is poisoning the sky. More to the point, it is obvious that as far as the livestock industry goes it is the big capitalists who are to blame for these emissions, as they have total control over farms and the conditions on them and could, but choose not to in the name of profit, institute more sustainable systems and conditions (for example, something I may recommend for a socialist economy’s agricultural system: moving productive focus gradually from rearing and slaughtering many cows to cloning meat from comparatively few). The lion’s share of the working class, even those working in livestock industries, have no control whatsoever over the policies in this industry, in any case; only the small group of big capitalists who own and administer big farms and herds have this control, and thus they are the ones to blame for problems arising from these policies.
Things get more complicated with transportation, another contender for “very worst” contributing societal factor to pollution; in this area, after all, the average worker, if they drive a car, does have some kind of influence and choice, or so it would appear. But we must ask why the average worker in a country like this one feels the need to own a car and use it regularly, despite the considerable expense, the at least theoretical existence of better mechanisms of travel, and the general hatred with which most actually react to driving excessively. The old essays says this: “why do we love our cars, even if we don’t need them and they are destroying our planet? For an answer, let us look to pop culture. Media is utterly saturated with the car. The right car can make us cool, we are told, or can save us money. Sponsored interruptions permeate everything; the whole cultural superstructure of media and culture is woven through with threads of advertising. And again, ultimately, the message is ‘it is good to consume.’” All this is true. Imperialist capitalism has, and in the US this is particularly bad, as a component of its cultural superstructure what we may term a culture of the car. Automobiles are portrayed as a contingent part of adulthood, learning to drive as a fundamental rite of passage, purchasing or receiving one a personal milestone, possessing one a symbol of independence and self-sufficiency; having one is cool, not having one embarrassing, a sign of immaturity or financial failure. All this culture, of course, is constructed by the system of bourgeois social rule through media, advertising, punditry, etc. The US also suffers from an utter dearth of any other, more efficient and sustainable, form of transportation, and the blame for this falls of course on the state, whose austerity is to be blamed entirely on its bourgeois masters. In reality, we can and should conceive of a reality in which only a minority need to own and drive cars, but this will never be allowed by a social order in which so much profit stands to be made on selling them, and selling gas for them to burn. Thus, the blame for pollution from transportation also falls, at least in the main, on the big capitalists and their social order, and its solution, a motion away from car-ubiquity, is incompatible with socialism.
We must talk of plastics pollution. It should be made clear that plastic is not, as some liberal environmentalists seem now to suppose, some sort of intrinsically evil material (no such thing can exist). In fact, plastic is useful and wonderful in a number of contexts. The problem, the reason for the epidemic of plastics pollution, is not with plastic itself but with its misuse: what has occurred is that a profoundly, phenomenally durable and long-lasting material has, quite bizarrely, become of standard usage for disposable products, in such a way that all its best attributes for other uses become instead deficiencies. The blame for this falls, of course, quite squarely on the shoulders of the big bourgeoisie, via profit motives: by selling not one plastic fork or spoon or water bottle, but rather thousands of “disposable” ones, the bourgeoisie have, although individual amount demanded for plastic as a product and thus the individual price of these products have gone down, created enormous artificial demand for plastic products and thus been able to foment the production, sale, and ultimate absorption into their capital of huge amounts of surplus value from production that is essentially unnecessary. The whole epidemic of plastics pollution, put shortly, is a consequence of an economic order- commodity capitalism- in which things are made to be sold, not to be used. Under a socialist planned economy, where production efficiently produces what is needed and not what is most profitable, there will be no motive to churn out nonsensical “disposable” plastics, and thus the problem will be intensely mitigated.
We must also touch on forest-clearing for logging and farming, particularly in South America and above all Brazil. As we have seen above, this is one of the most brutal areas of ecologic destruction- it doesn’t just create violence indirectly through destruction of climatic conditions needed for people to live, it is actually itself often a direct act of genocidal violence against indigenous peoples. Of course, additionally, we must see that this violence is entirely a product of imperialist capitalism, of the incessant and fundamental need of the finance capital of logging and farming corporations to expand ad infinitum. If we were living in an economy where production served people, then it would never be acceptable to sacrifice many people in the name of production serving capital owned only by a few; we could instead investigate means to more efficiently utilize land that is already cleared rather than violently clearing more. In the capitalist economy, however, the lives of ninety-nine percent of people are less important than the expansion of capital, and the result of this order is both climatic carnage and, even worse, systematized murder.
Examples such as these can be continued ad infinitum, but the point, I think, is made. We have proven that what was writ above is correct: the blame for climatic crisis is on the big bourgeoisie and their capital, and the contradiction at the heart of this problem is between capital and the rest of the world: EC↔SE. The prescription of a resolution to this contradiction, then, must be the prescription of the abolition of the capitalist political economy, of capital, and of capitalists as a class.
In a sort of addendum comment, here, I must add that many scientists have tried to estimate the deaths caused by the havoc of anthropogenic climate change running wild as it does under an economic order which encourages endless expansion of capital; these estimations vary wildly because the processes of violence they try to describe are so disparate, oblique, and indirect, but all of them are quite large. These millions of deaths, of course, can be added to the list of victims of capitalism, together with the dead of imperialist wars, those too poor to eat or receive medical care even when the resources to give them these things exist, and victims of colonial genocide, proving imperialist finance capital once again to be the bloodiest institution in human history.
IIIb. WHAT TO DO
We have concluded that a solution to ecological crisis requires the abolition of capitalism. We should know by now, given the failure of history to invent an alternative, that this must mean socialist revolution. The process of constructing dual power and true masses’ democracy in a (semi-)state of the working class- which must happen in every country and is happening now under the leadership of Maoist Parties in such places as Turkey, India, Peru, and the Philippines- is a thing I’ve written on in broad strokes before, and a question on which not much expansion can be made by one such as myself until it begins in this country, so there will be no detailed exploration here; we shall focus on how this process is of relevance to ecological concerns.
The core feature in the construction of dual power by People’s War in a country is the gradual conquest of base areas and the construction in each base area of provisional units of revolutionary government such as soviets or people’s committees, with military conquest being carried out by a People’s Army and construction of people’s government taken on by that army and by the masses under the banner of a United Front of revolutionary organizations (such as unions, working womens’ fronts, national minorities’ groups, et cetera, as well as local associations of revolutionaries working to build said base area up), all under the ideological and military guidance of a democratic vanguardist Party around which the army and UF are concentrically organized and to which they look for the principles on which their democratic functioning is to be based. Of course, a central concern here is for the provisional organs of “worker democracy” or “sovietism” to claim control, democratic control by workers, over the means of production. Thusly, in an “ecocommunist” programme, of vital importance is the idea of these bodies should manage the resources which they claim control of through the People’s War in a way that is ecologically sound.
And here is a key point about this: the interests of the People and the interests of maintaining stability in the climate are, fundamentally, the same, as the People depend upon the climate. Thusly, if the provisional workers’ administration (and the fully formed socialist republican (semi-)state to succeed it once revolutionary war is won) is working for the good of the majority of the People, all it requires to also be ecologically harmonious is sufficient education on ecology to understand how to preserve ecological harmony, and then logically it should, as this harmony is also in the interests of its electorate, the workers. This education, though, is vital; without it even a well-intentioned socialist body will make mistakes that in the short term seem helpful to the People but in the long term will harm them through ecological instability- the extermination of certain “pest” species in China, though its role in “causing” famine has been grotesquely exaggerated by bourgeois sources, was such an error.
The guide in all the steps of this process is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism- Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the guiding thought of the country’s specific revolution. There can be no revolution, in its ecological dimension or in any other, without the guiding thought on which the Party must base its democratic line, the specific guiding thought of the specific revolution together with the global ideology of the revolutionary proletarian movement: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, with Maoism as the principal stage in ideological development and with the vital additional universal lessons derived from Gonzalo Thought, guiding thought of the mighty ongoing revolution in Peru in the path of which others must follow. This must be the foundation on which the line by which the Party leads is built, both through the revolutionary construction of proletarian rule in the People’s War and through the maintenance of the socialist system on the way to communism thereafter.
Also, it is of vital importance that central in this whole movement is the cause of the resolution of the capitalist system’s core contradictions, of the liberation of the exploited proletariat from oppression by the bourgeoisie and of the exploited of the world from imperialist domination. The ecological cause is a cause that can be won by socialist revolution, but in subordination to the proletarian cause, as it is only a proletarian socialist state than can do it. Queer liberation is a very important goal, but its pursuit is only part of the broader struggle against patriarchy and that can only be won within the proletarian cause. The causes of liberation of races and nations and peoples are all important, but they must be subordinated to and won through this cause. Queer theory, radical feminism, deep ecology, critical race theory- these cannot be our philosophical guides. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the weapon, the tool to liberate all humanity through the construction of socialism and ultimately communism!
Part of constructing and maintaining the new proletarian social order and socialist economic system, and part of resolving the aforementioned contradictions and bad viewpoints amongst the people, of course, is the process of a proletarian revolution in the cultural sphere, to overturn the social norms of the old system and build, out of what decent stuff remains from them, those of the new. A necessary part of this is addressing head-on contradictions amongst the people, and Mao has given us guidance for doing this. We must draw a distinction, first of all, between contradictions of an antagonistic nature which can only be resolved by one contradicting material party triumphing over the other (such as the Proletariat↔Bourgeoisie class contradiction) and contradictions of a benign or nonantagonistic nature, which can be resolved by criticism and struggle without the forceful triumph of one side over the other. Under a socialist or at least progressive regime, the Urban↔Rural contradiction should be benign, and can be resolved through democratic struggle; let us examine what Mao has said on the subject.
In On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, he wrote of the New Power political system in early revolutionary China “…democracy operates within the ranks of the people, while the working class, uniting with all others enjoying civil rights, and in the first place with the peasantry, enforces dictatorship over the reactionary classes and elements and all those who resist socialist transformation and oppose socialist construction. By civil rights, we mean, politically, the rights of freedom and democracy. But this freedom is freedom with leadership and this democracy is democracy under centralized guidance… In advocating freedom with leadership and democracy under centralized guidance, we in no way mean that coercive measures should be taken to settle ideological questions or questions involving the distinction between right and wrong among the people… The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, criticism, persuasion and education[.]” What is key here is the principle of “democracy under guidance” and “freedom with leadership.” These principles are our guiding lights when it comes to resolving contradictions that have contributed to wrong views of climatic, and other, issues.
Under the construction of the socialist democratic state and social order through the party-army-united front system, the working people of the countryside and the cities alike are united in their local workers’ committees or soviets, which serve to elect and hold accountable the governing authorities of the national soviets or congress while guided ideologically by the local and national philosophical leadership of the Party. Thusly, for the cultural and ideological development of society, the atmosphere which exists is of local and national proletarian democracy, united together in the common project of communism with philosophical guidance and leadership from the scientifically and democratically determined line of the Party, which must be built upon the ideology of proletarian liberation, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (with the understanding that Maoism is the newest and principal stage in its development, and with the universal lessons of Gonzalo Thought) and the guiding thought of each country’s revolution. On the basis of this line, the party must lead the people of city and country in coming together in working class unity: much of the anti-rural working class rhetoric of urban liberals (mocking trailer park living, etc.) is nothing more than a thinly veiled disdain for the poor, and this must be corrected by Party and United Front promulgation of a culture that values the working class and their contributions to society. On the other hand, the rural population does have certain backward views, and these must be corrected by Party and soviet political education, together with the promulgation of training in more ecologically sustainable ways of managing such areas of production as mining and farming. The urban and rural proletariat must meet together in the halls of worker-democratic or sovietist governance to resolve their disagreements through democratic collaboration and struggle in pursuit of the common good of the whole working class, with these soviets’ organization and these struggles’ structure being guided by the Party and by Maoist philosophy, most notably the rules of Criticism and Self Criticism and the basic Unity-Struggle-Unity conception of a struggle or discussion: meeting on the basis of a need for unity, struggling over contradictions until they are resolved, and therefrom returning to unity. This is how the Urban↔Rural contradiction is to be resolved, and the numerous wrong beliefs with which it correlates expunged.
Of course, this is far from the only contradiction to be so resolved, though it is that most relevant to ecological concerns. Under the socialist governmental system of the sovietist democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat, guided in construction and functioning by the three weapons concept of party army and united front, all secondary social contradictions are to be resolved in this manner of organized democratic struggle under leadership, through the free struggle of contradicting elements within worker-democratic governance, guided by the unity-struggle-unity schema and the ideological leadership of Maoism and the Party’s line. The communist world of the future is a world without contradictions between races, between the sexes, between queers and anti-queer social norms, between nations. The communist world of the future is one where all humanity lives together, undivided by unjust social contradictions, and where each individual is not defined by divisions imposed on them but rather defines themself in the fabric of a collective society.