Communist Platform

Climate change is accelerating, let us accelerate the fight for the conscious organization of social production

"Thus at every step we are reminded that 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 beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws." (F. Engels, Dialectics of Nature)

In November 2012, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2011. According to the data released, between 1990 and 2011 the global warming caused by greenhouse gases increased by 30%. The rise in the average land temperature and the subsequent climatic changes can be devastating.

One of the main greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2). It is estimated that since the beginning of the industrial age, in the mid-1700s, the amount of CO2 discharged into the atmosphere is close to 375 thousand million tons.

Also, atmospheric concentrations of methane, from the melting of the permafrost in Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Siberia, reached record levels in 2011, with 1,813 parts per million, 159% over pre-industrial levels.

According to meteorological statistics, 2001-2012 were the warmest years on record since 1850. The extent of Arctic ice has reached a new low. The ice banks have melted at an alarming rate, which brings to light the profound changes that can be seen in the oceans and the biosphere.

Among the phenomena recorded in 2012 were heat waves that struck the Northern Hemisphere, particularly the U.S. and Europe. Russia also recorded the hottest summer in history since 2010. The north of Brazil was struck by the worst drought in 50 years.

In July of 2012, satellite images show that the ice sheet covering much of Greenland almost completely melted in a few days. This is an unprecedented phenomenon, put in relation to another event observed on the island: the breaking off of gigantic icebergs from the Petermann Glacier. For scientists both phenomena are due to a heat wave that affected the Arctic region.

In addition to these phenomena, the planet has suffered droughts, floods and extreme ice waves.

Towards the point of no return

All these phenomena are increasingly evident manifestations of a process, global climate change, that is developing before our eyes at a rate greater than expected by environmental scholars.

According to the scientific community, the increase in the average temperature on the surface of the Earth, observed in the last decades, is most likely due to increased emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, due to the use of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal and natural gas that currently provide about 85% of global energy needs) and to deforestation.

According to the model accepted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC), the critical point of climate change can be established by an increase in the average global temperature of more than 2° C (3.6° F) compared to the pre-industrial level. Given the current level of emissions, the critical limit that marks irreversible climate change will be reached in thirty years if things do not change.

The closer we get to this limit, the more beyond human control will be the process of climate change and the more it will give rise to catastrophic chain reactions (for example, the melting of polar ice, rising sea levels, desertification, etc.).

One must note that climate change is only one aspect of the broader ecological crisis, which includes other aspects such as the acidification of the oceans, the destruction of the ozone layer, the surpassing of the limits of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, breaking the cycle of the waters, the loss of biodiversity, etc.

All these manifestations of the ecological crisis result from the transformative activity of people, from the production process and its consequences. This activity, which goes to satisfy human needs and "is an eternal nature-imposed necessity, without which there can be no material exchanges between man and Nature, and therefore no life" (K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, chap. 1), does not develop in the abstract, but within society, within concrete relations that people establish among themselves and with nature.

The scale and speed of the environmental changes indicate that the causes of the problem must be sought in the current economic structure.

The causes of the ecological crisis

We are living in a particular mode of production of material life defined by historical development: capitalism. There is no doubt that the main cause of the increasing degradation of nature is this mode of production characterized by relentless accumulation, directed to the frantic pursuit of profit, driven by a predatory logic against man and nature.

In our epoch the capitalist monopolies, which arose on the basis of the concentration of production and capital, in order to ensure maximum profit bloodily exploit the workers and loot the peoples, rob the natural resources and produce huge and indiscriminate quantities of commodities, without worrying about the effects of their activities on people and on nature itself, which is reduced to a garbage dump.

The aim of capitalist production is immediate profit, which is realized following the laws that capital imposes on society to grow continuously. This means production and sale of an ever greater mass of commodities, which results in increased degradation on the ecological plane.

In its monopoly stage, capitalism is a machine that constantly tends to the saturation of the market and to overproduction; it programmatically produces obsolete commodities to increase sales and also immense quantities of useless, harmful and luxury commodities for a minority of rich people; it is characterized by economic waste, by gigantic military and unproductive expenditure, by parasitism. The irrationality and inefficiency of this moribund system forces large amounts of energy and natural resources to be used, creating a massive amount of waste products that cannot be absorbed by the environment.

The capitalists are only concerned with the most immediate practical results of production, not with the long-term effects on society and nature, which are ignored or overshadowed. The social and environmental costs are not costs that produce surplus value for the capitalists; therefore in their logic there is no reason for them to assume these costs.

Instead of following the recommendations of the scientists, the monopolies are willing to take advantage of the environmental damage that they themselves caused to obtain more profits (for example, they benefit from the thawing of the permafrost to extract methane, from the melting of the polar ice caps to create new trade routes, etc.).

Advancing capitalist production and accumulation, and with them the mass and rate of profit, increasingly reduces the "green space" that allows mankind and many other species to live. The general law of capitalist accumulation is also the general law of increasing environmental and human devastation.

The bourgeois states protect the interests of the monopolies and refuse to put serious barriers in the way of environmental devastation. For example, the U.S., which with 4.5% of the world’s population is responsible for 16.3% of greenhouse gas emissions, has never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The Copenhagen Accord has failed. There is presently no significant global action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and reduce emissions; no country has adopted energy policies capable of ensuring climate security. And it is unlikely that they will adopt them in the coming years, also because of the growing demand for energy by the emerging capitalist powers such as China, India, Brazil, etc.

Reducing emissions by more than one percentage point per year is unrealizable under capitalism, since this would aggravate its crisis. All this shows that a policy directed to avoid dangerous climate change is incompatible with the laws of the capitalist economy.

The bourgeoisie, instead of proposing and implementing a radical and immediate reduction in emissions, accepts climate change as a fact of life derived from its mode of production.

The consequences of climate change caused by capitalism become even more disastrous because of the cuts in social spending, the existence of millions of homeless people, the misrule and ineptitude of the central and local governmental representatives.

The general crisis, ecological crisis and economic crisis

The ecological crisis is an aspect of the major general crisis of the capitalist system, which is striking the entire world imperialist system and affects all aspects of the existing mode of production (economy, politics, ideology, culture, morality, etc.). This crisis of the structure and superstructure of the bourgeois order is getting worse everywhere.

Every aspect of the general crisis of capitalism is interdependent and affects other aspects that are related to each other, influence and condition each other.

In this context, the environmental problem caused by the contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production is aggravated, and this in turn exacerbates these contradictions, acting on other aspects of the crisis.

Two examples of this vicious circle:

a) Throughout the past year we have seen the agricultural and food crisis due to drought in the Midwest (USA), in southwestern Europe, in Africa and in the Asian monsoon, and the decrease in the fertility of animals. This has caused the increase in the prices of corn, soybeans, rice, sugar, cereals, etc. The average food price index of the FAO [Food and Agricultural Organization] has increased by 6%. The result has been increased hunger, especially in the poorest countries and those dependent on imperialism (1.3 thousand million people live on less than one euro per day), serious problems for small and medium-sized farmers, for fisherfolk who are in difficulty due to depletion of resources, etc. These problems have affected the economic crisis, making it broader and deeper.

b). The difficulties resulting from the economic and financial crisis put into the background the adoption of plans and programs aimed at preventing environmental damage, because they are "too expensive." To restart the growth engine, the monopolies are pushing for production based primarily on the use of fossil fuels instead of renewable energy sources. In fact, coal consumption increased rapidly during the temporary economic recovery of 2010-11, and with it the emission of gases. An economy based on private ownership of the means of production even in times of crisis is destructive to the environment.

The general crisis, the ecological crisis and the economic crisis are interrelated, they interact and feed on each other. They have a single source, capitalism, and to find solutions it is essential to overcome the contradictions and errors of the present society.

False responses of the bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie is aware of the serious environmental problem and is trying to provide answers that do not jeopardize its mode of production.

The first bourgeois proposal is to include "environmental" costs in the prices of commodities. For example: industries cause damage to the environment by their activities, but they do not want to sustain the "unproductive" costs to prevent this, to reduce and repair this damage. For proponents of this proposal, businesses should include such costs in the price of commodities, and use the proceeds for environmental objectives.

This position, which makes the consumers pay for the crimes of the capitalists, is encountering strong criticism, since it is not difficult to find cases in which it is not possible to return to the previous situation. Furthermore, this proposal does not address issues such as the depletion of natural resources.

The capitalists, however, like this proposal very much and promote it, because it involves increasing their trade. This is the case with the so-called "green label" or with "biological products" sold at very high prices, although often the cost of production is lower.

A variant of this first proposal is to make industries pay the cost of environmental damage caused by their activities. In this way the richest and most powerful capitalists can buy the "right" to pollute certain areas.

A second proposal is one of "sustainable development," that is, to give nature a chance to be able to reproduce the resources taken. For example: if you cut down a tree, you must plant two trees.

The theorists of "sustainable development" do not question the logic of the continuous increases in production of commodities, of unchecked consumerism. They do not deal with the problem that the limits that the laws of nature and the very limitation of resources impose on the process of economic growth. They think that technical progress by itself will solve every problem. But technology cannot be separated from the relations of production. Capitalism subjects technology to its needs, to profit, not for the environment and social welfare.

In addition, following the perspective of sustainable development under capitalism leads to the paradox of constant and infinite growth in a world of finite resources.

A third bourgeois proposal is to "decrease growth." Its proponents call on the bourgeoisie to recede slowly, to enrich itself less, to lose some privileges, while maintaining its political power, a society divided into classes, etc.

Although they know that most pollution is caused by manufacturing activities, they never attack the capitalist monopolies or their unbridled pursuit of maximum profit; they never propose dealing with the fundamental question of private ownership of the means of production, but only speak of reducing consumption.

For the supporters of this decrease, the responsibility for the current situation is not the ruling class; instead they prefer to blame the "human race." They think it is possible to persuade the capitalists to limit their growth, they dream of returning to pre-industrial forms of production, thus ending up among the utopians of evasion.

Actually capitalism, which is based on the formula M-C-M', or buying to sell, exploiting wage labor in order to increase capital, cannot consume less energy and resources, it cannot do without fossil fuels or sell fewer commodities, it cannot be planned, without endangering its very existence. The same unbridled competition among capitalists makes it impossible to stop the machine of accumulation.

And due to the failure and utopian character of the bourgeois ecological proposals we must approach the problem of climate change from a scientific and class perspective.

The basis for a solution

In the present epoch the productive forces have achieved such a social character and development that they cannot be contained by the narrow limits of the bourgeois relations of production. These relationships bring society into disorder, hinder the solution of the many social, economic and environmental problems and sharpen all the existing contradictions.

The bourgeoisie is unable to rationally utilize the productive forces and therefore it cannot find a solution to the environmental problem. It is the relations of production, based on the exploitation of people and nature, that prevent this.

Capitalist accumulation, which continually increases the wealth serving as capital and its concentration in the hands of powerful monopolies, casts the working class into misery and devastates nature, leading to the collapse of earth’s ecological system.

The starting point for a solution to the problem of the ecology is therefore the understanding of the fundamental contradictions of the present mode of production, which are the basis of that "revolutionary transformation of the whole of society" (Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party), aimed at destroying the present relations of production and creating new ones, conforming to the character of the productive forces.

Clearly these contradictions do not develop in the abstract, but within conditions of general production, which consist in a "physical," natural conditions; that is in terms of natural limits of the ecosystem, of geological and climatic conditions, of natural resources, of the capacity of the environment to absorb waste, of the limits imposed by the laws of physics.

The ecological crisis is the manifestation of the inherent contradictions of capitalism on the level of the relationship between people and nature. To resolve these contradictions it is essential and urgent to overthrow the present mode of production with the social revolution of the proletariat and socialize the means of production (land, forests, water, subsoil, raw materials, instruments of labor, buildings used for production, means of transportation and communication, etc.).

Without social ownership and control of the sources of energy and fuels, of the energy systems, of production, transmission, distribution and consumption of energy, without the socialist nationalization of industries, there can be no solution to the energy and environmental problem.

Capitalism is a system that has been historically superseded and is ecologically unsustainable; it is unable to get out of its general crisis, which threatens the biosphere and the survival of humankind. At the same time, it is a system ripe to be replaced by a higher social system: proletarian socialism, the first stage of communism.

Only socialism can bring about a conscious organization of social production in which everything will be produced and distributed according to a plan, in which the material exchange between human beings and nature will be rationally adjust and the economy will be restructured based on the use of renewable energy.

The historical evolution and the existing environmental conditions make this new society increasingly feasible and ever more necessary. The means to create an economy and a livable world in harmony with the laws of nature exist. But they can only be applied by a radical and profound transformation of the economic structure.

Therefore the working class and the oppressed peoples must act to defeat capitalism with the revolutionary political struggle as soon as possible.

Only socialism can protect human beings and the ecosystem

There is no doubt that the abandonment of the consumer model, the invasion of commodities that do not meet the real needs of human beings conceived in their relations with nature, the elimination of the monopolization of social development, the reduction in the hours of work, can only occur in a higher socio-economic order.

Without the dictatorship of the proletariat on a world scale, which can occur only as a result of the victory of the proletarian revolution in different countries or groups of countries and the union of the proletarian republics, without the direct passage to socialism by countries with advanced capitalism or medium development (something other than "market socialism" that leads inevitably to capitalism), without a radical transformation of the structure of society, it is not possible to stop and reverse the destructive course of a system ruled by the law of Therefore maximum profit and the consequent environmental devastation.

Socialism is the only equitable and sustainable system, which can create a social structure in which humanity can unite and use its ability to prevent environmental catastrophe and ensure its survival and development.

Socialism with its proposed abolition of exploitation of people and nature, with the planned and rational use of technological development that has been achieved and global cooperation, is the only system that can ensure natural equilibrium, leading and developing the most important knowledge and achievements of human civilization.

The relationship between people and nature is radically transformed under socialism because production no longer has the aim of achieving maximum profit, promoting consumerism, but of satisfying people’s material and cultural needs, and not ones that are superfluous or artificially induced.

The socialist economy puts at the center people, their real needs and their balanced relationship with the ecosystem that is suffering from the legacy of capitalism and therefore will have to be rebalanced for generations.

Development under Socialism

The concept of development in socialist society takes on an entirely different meaning from that under capitalism. Also the needs under the new social system are different from those induced and manipulated by the demand for valorization of capital. Not only levels of production, but also those of consumption, are planned.

Under socialism knowledge is used to improve production systems, not to accumulate profits and wealth for the benefit of the monopolies that hold the patents.

Under this point of view the problem of development of the productive forces consists of:

a) renewal of the productive base based on renewable energy; b) development of new technologies and machines with lower energy consumption and more energy efficiency, more durable and reliable; c) elimination or reconversion of obsolete and contaminating facilities; d) less waste of energy and human labor, savings of raw materials, reduction of materials of consumption and waste by-products; e) use of biodegradable and recyclable materials; f) priority to renewable energy (solar, wind, tidal, hydro, geothermal, biomass, biogas) in all sectors, from production to trade, from transport to housing; g) drastic decrease of intermediate and artificial costs (packaging, advertising, etc.); h) development of ecological building systems, with thermal insulation and efficient lighting; i) recycling and recovery; j) development of hydrogen as an energy source.

The concept of wellbeing in the new society

Wellbeing in the new social order is not comparable to the false consumerist comfort and excess, waste and luxury that characterize the bourgeois lifestyle.

The indicator of wealth is no longer the increase in the volume of commodities and consumption, but the reduction in the time devoted to material labor, the social and environmental quality of the goods produced, their use value measured in terms of satisfaction of the effective and basic needs of the working masses, the structural eco-friendly characteristics, their durability and reparability, their recycling characteristics, etc.

Social wellbeing is measured in terms of reduction in working hours and guaranteed employment, social services, free and quality health care; in polytechnic and humanist education; in productive and social security; in more holidays and relaxation and early retirement; in less pollution, less traffic, less stress; in homes, libraries, cinemas, theaters, science and art, sport and leisure at the mass level; in the elimination of class privileges, efficient administration, ample social reserves, conservation of the environment and cultural goods, etc.

Undoubtedly, the new socialist societies that will arise will have to solve problems that the first experiences of socialism have dealt with differently because of the different historical conditions.

It will require a more complete and rational organization and relocation of social production: nearness of the sources of natural resources and areas of consumption, solutions to the problem of industrial waste, reduction in water use, development of research and innovation, adoption of regulations, etc.

The complete collectivization and rationalization of agriculture will also be essential: cooperation, advanced technical management, soil rotation, use of varieties that need less natural resources, use of traditional eco-efficient cultivation supported by modern agronomy, reduction of pesticides and poisons, etc.

In this sense, the new society will have to re-industrialize, re-mechanize and innovate industry and agriculture. This is where most of the investments will have to flow.

Also the whole transport system will have to be collectivized and modernized: concentration of all forms of transport in the hands of the socialist state, the only planned system, a drastic reduction of road transport, rational solution to the problems of the mobility of the masses with the strengthening of public transport, decongestion of the cities and urban-rural rebalancing, etc.

The environmental issue in a society of associated producers is closely linked to the question of genuine democracy, of conscious participation and cultural growth of the working masses. Only the socialist system, which is based on the mass organizations of the proletariat and the other working people and a genuinely collective program, can really ensure this union. The fundamental role of the non-alienated worker, the main subject of the new society, will emerge.


The ecological question has a global dimension. To solve the global ecological crisis and begin a genuine social and ecological reform there must be a world proletarian revolution and establishment of socialism, the first stage of communism, in which "socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulate their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favorable to, and worthy of, their human nature." (K. Marx, Capital, Vol. III, chap. 48.)

January 2013
Communist Platform (Italy)

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