The bourgeoisie is unable to stem the tide of climate change

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This article was written before the terrible events in Derna, Libya, after floods stirred up by Storm Daniel swept through ill-maintained dams on the Wadi Derna and caused unimaginable levels of destruction. Over 11,000 are known to have died, thousands more are missing and those left in the ruins face starvation and disease. Nothing could more clearly illustrate the growing impact of climate change and capitalism’s total inability to build a “dam” against it, as the article below clearly shows.  

The year 2023 is demonstrating once again the scale of the environmental disaster into which the bourgeoisie is dragging all of humanity. The devastating forest fires in Canada and Hawaii, the floods in Asia, the shortages of drinking water in Uruguay and Africa, the devastating storms in the United States, the irretrievable melting of the glaciers... all these "natural disasters" are directly linked to global warming.

A disaster on a global scale
Not only is global warming real, it is accelerating at a dizzying and catastrophic rate. July 2023 was the hottest month on record for the planet. The month of August has seen the hottest day on record ever for this period. Forecasters are predicting that 2024 could well exceed these woeful records. The collapse of the system of ocean currents like the Gulf Stream, an essential regulator of the planet's climate, could, if confirmed, drastically alter the Earth's climate and considerably weaken the human species in the space of a few decades; it's a new threat yet to be confirmed, but one that could be added to all those already hanging over humanity!

The bourgeoisie can no longer deny this reality, even though it has deliberately sought to reduce or even conceal the risks for many years in order to protect its profits![1] But the acceleration and accentuation of the consequences of climate change means they can no longer hide the truth: the global climate is heading for a catastrophic situation that will make more and more areas of the planet uninhabitable. Apart from totally irrational "climate sceptics" like Trump and the European far right, the most "responsible" heads of state are all promising, hand on heart, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to develop a more environmentally-friendly economy. Of course, these commitments are never met, or fall far short of what's at stake, or are utterly laughable (banning plastic straws, sales receipts, etc.).
Consequently, the bourgeoisie is having to change its tune and to start preparing us all to face the unthinkable by introducing measures of "adaptation". The latest comments, but certainly not the last, are from France's new health minister, Aurélien Rousseaux, who, faced with a new heatwave that hit half the country in August, had nothing better to say than: "We have to get used to living with these extremely high temperatures". Needless to say, as with the case of the past and future pandemics, the bourgeoisie is showing unspeakable incompetence and is not seriously preparing for the catastrophe. Behind these so-called "adaptations", the ruling class is above all preparing people for austerity and shortages of supplies in the name of adjusting to "environmental requirements".

The bourgeoisie has no solution to the environmental crisis
Under the pretext of "adapting" to increasingly unsustainable climatic conditions, the bourgeoisie is starting to reshape its economy... but certainly not to preserve the planet! Several countries are planning to reactivate coal-fired power stations or (like France) are unscrupulously tampering with quotas to avoid shutting them down! The French government is very close to authorising new oil drilling in the Gironde, symbolically located at the place where the forests were ravaged last year! States are fighting to avoid putting excessive constraints on their economies, and are using the environment as an imperialist weapon to vilify each other's inaction, to protect their own markets and try to weaken their competitors with, for example, high-profile lawsuits against competing car manufacturers for infringing environmental rules... As a result, the European law on the protection of nature, adopted on 12 July, contains a provision introducing an economic safeguard clause: if the economy suffers as a result of misconceived measures set out in the law, these should be cancelled! For capital, there should be no constraints on the expansion and intensification of its economy. Environmental destruction has to take second place.

At the same time, preventive measures are not being taken, with the obvious risk of accelerating the scale of disasters. The fires in Hawaii, for example, were uncontrollable because the electric power lines were still not buried underground and the risk of overhead lines spreading the fires led the authorities to cut off the electricity, which immediately disconnected the pumps supplying the firefighters' hoses with water. In Asia, the lack of medicines to combat malaria and dysentery played a large part in worsening the human toll of the floods. In Uruguay, with a drop in the capacity to supply enough drinking water to people's taps, it was replaced with salt water! In Mayotte, a French overseas territory, no provision was made to deal with a drought depriving the population of drinking water.

Protecting the environment is not profitable...
This is not a matter of "choice" or "lack of political will", but the very logic of capitalist accumulation, which forbids any questioning of the ultra-polluting dynamics of bourgeois society. For it is capitalism that is responsible for these problems; it is capitalism that forces every capitalist to produce more and more, and at lower cost, even if this production leads to more pollution and health hazards. Capitalism needs to sell. And that's all there is to it! An anarchic and short-term approach. In fact, it's suicidal. Selling is not about satisfying human needs, it's about profiting from market demands.

It is therefore pointless and self-deceiving to imagine that this system is capable of suddenly inventing a long-term vision and a reasoned organisation; it is not capable of this and never will be. The fierce competition that distinguishes it may have been a powerful engine of progress for the productive forces from its inception, but when it reached the limits of solvent demand, in other words of the markets, this fierce competition transformed itself into a machine of war: economic war, military war, for world domination at any cost, including the very cost of destroying the environment.

Today, the research and development of the productive apparatus are much more about servicing the military sector than protecting the environment and meeting human needs. Global military spending now exceeds 2,000 billion dollars and has never been so high since the end of the Cold War. This spending is a complete waste, its sole aim that of destroying and killing or, at best, leaves machinery rusting away in some hangar. They deploy thousands of brains in order to destroy and spread chaos and death. The acceleration of imperialist tensions since the end of the Cold War shows very clearly that this trend is still far from having reached its peak.

Only communism can offer humanity a future
Saving the planet will not be achieved through "frugality" or "degrowth", which amounts to nothing more than an admission of impotence, or even a fantasy of a return to a pre-capitalist society. No, saving the planet will require the conscious abolition of the capitalist economy and its now obsolete relations of production, and the construction of a society capable of producing for human needs in a way that is both rational and respectful of the whole environment. Only the proletariat can bring an end to capitalism, because it is the only social force with the bulk of the world's production apparatus in its hands; a force that , at the same time, suffers from the impact of the crisis and exploitation and therefore has no interest in the perpetuation of this system.

Time is clearly no longer on our side and capitalism could, in due course, considerably threaten the existence of civilisation, if not humanity as a whole. But human and material resources do exist to reorganise production on a global scale in a way that respects the environment and human life and this while the untapped possibilities of science and technology are still immense.

Only the proletariat, once it has seized power on a world scale, will be able to free the productive forces from the capitalist constraints that shackle them. Only the proletariat is capable of conceiving, deciding and implementing, on an international scale, a policy that will free this world from the laws of profit and rebuild a society on the ruins that capitalism is bequeathing to humanity. By putting an end to the capitalist competition that contaminates the world, it will free the productive forces from the domination of the military sphere, which is directing all human ingenuity towards the work of destruction. It would also free them from the permanent waste of capitalist production: useless and polluting overproduction, programmed obsolescence, unproductive expenditure linked to mass unemployment, industrial espionage, etc. Finally, it will be able to raise human consciousness and the human spirit by developing an education that is no longer geared towards immediate profit, but towards human emancipation and a harmonious relationship with nature.  As Engels wrote in “The Role of Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man”: We  “by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly”.


Guy, 28 August 2023


[1] The bourgeoisie was fully aware of global warming by the 1970s. In 1972, the "Report of the Club of Rome" warned of the seriousness of the situation. For decades, the bourgeoisie generally sought to conceal this reality or to drown it under a torrent of ideological mystifications, of which the report itself, advocating "limited growth" (perfectly contrary to the reality of the capitalist economy) is a clear illustration.


Environmental crisis