The Destruction of the Planet by Capitalism-Imperialism
The Destruction of the Planet by Capitalism-Imperialism
The planet is warming at an alarming rate, with horrific consequences for humanity and putting ecosystems and species in peril. International summits, agreements, and commitments from Kyoto to Paris have done little to nothing.
The most important fact is this: The problem of global warming cannot be resolved within the confines of this global capitalist-imperialist system.1
There are only two choices: let the planet hurtle uncontrollably towards environmental disaster, and let other horrors continue and intensify such as wars of aggression and the oppression of Black and Brown people, of women, and of immigrants; OR we make a revolution, an actual revolution to overthrow this system of capitalism-imperialism.
Along comes the Green New Deal. Does it offer a more practical and immediate way to solve this crisis? No! It leaves in place the system of capitalism-imperialism, the very cause of global warming, with its production for profit, its oil/energy corporations, and the U.S. military machine. It operates on the basis of a fundamental and dangerous fallacy—that the current U.S. economy and standard of living simply needs to be weaned on to sustainable energy—when in fact a radical rupture is required in how what is today the United States interacts with the rest of the world and with the natural world.
This is not possible without an ACTUAL revolution, without dismantling and defeating the oppressive forces of the old order, and replacing it with a radically different system and society that are in line with the interests of humanity. But before we get to that, let’s actually examine the Green New Deal itself.
THE GREEN NEW DEAL—PART OF THE PROBLEM, HARMFUL AND MISLEADING
1. The Green New Deal Takes as a Given and Reinforces Imperialist Privilege
The Green New Deal sets out to “meet 100% of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources... building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘smart’ power grids and working to ensure affordable access to electricity.”2
Read those words again: “meet 100% of the power demand in the United States....” In other words, the Green New Deal takes America’s current level of production and consumption as a given. It takes the enormous disparities in energy consumption between the U.S. and most of the world as a given. It takes as a given (without admitting) that the standard of living of the richest economy in the world rests on the exploitation of hundreds of millions across the planet... and the plunder of the resources of the planet.
Walmart and most other major U.S. corporations outsource production (and pollution!) to China, Bangladesh, countries in Central America, and elsewhere. America’s total carbon pollution worldwide is actually 14 percent higher than the domestic numbers reveal... when you factor in the greenhouse gases emitted in the manufacture of cars, clothing, and other products overseas but consumed in the U.S.3
Can you solve the problem of global warming while keeping all these supply chains, with their sweatshops, pollution-intensive industrial agriculture, and shipping, intact? No you cannot.
Can you avert the collapse of ecosystems and get to zero-carbon emissions without making profound and, yes, wrenching changes in how we live, in what is produced and how, in what and how much we consume, in transport, in our values? You cannot.
But the Green New Deal spins the toxic fable that in the imperialist enclaves we can have it all: high growth, imperialist prosperity, and sustainability based on government-supported green technology fixes. This is not a solution but a reinforcement of the system that causes global warming.
2. The Green New Deal Does Not Keep the Fossil Fuel in the Ground
There is no mandate in the Green New Deal to keep fossil fuel in the ground. Instead, the Green New Deal proposes “to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.” This means that companies can pollute the atmosphere with carbon but “zero out” those emissions by, let’s say, creating carbon-absorbing tree plantations in the Third World. This “net-zero” escape clause also opens the prospects for questionable technology to capture and store carbon. The major oil companies are salivating over these technology investments because that enables them to keep pumping oil while appearing to be “going green.”
The Green New Deal places no limits on the activities of energy corporations or the banks that finance fossil-fuels. And let’s not dance around reality. To truly reverse climate change, the oil industry would have to be put out of business.
3. The Green New Deal Gives the U.S. Military a Pass
The genocidal U.S. military machine—with its tanks, naval ships, warplanes that rain death and destruction, and its 800 military bases that girdle the globe—relies on fossil fuel. In fact, the U.S. military is the single largest institutional consumer of oil in the world.4 Can you solve the problem of global warming while keeping that military machine in place? The Green New Deal doesn’t say a word!
But it does declare, echoing Pentagon-think, that “climate change constitutes a direct threat to the national security of the United States.”5 That is code for the criminal enforcement of the interests of the U.S Empire. In fact, Ocasio-Cortez in a recent video evoked the U.S. military during World War 2 as part of the glorious past of this country, when in fact this was a ruthless imperialist war culminating in nuclear holocaust committed by the U.S. against Japan. The Green New Deal takes the New Deal of the 1930s and war mobilization of the 1940s as its model—and people need to wake up to how FDR’s New Deal served the American empire.
4. The Green New Deal Aims to Secure U.S. Dominance Under the Cloak of Green Energy
The Green New Deal draft document says that “adopting [its] goals would make ‘green’ technology, industry, expertise, products, and services a major U.S. export. As a result, America could become an international leader in helping other countries transition to completely carbon-neutral economies.” To some, this may sound positive and encouraging: America “will take the lead” in new, clean technologies and “help other countries.” But don’t get played: this is a green-chauvinist version of “Make America Great Again”...and it’s dangerous.
U.S. imperialism has historically used technological advantage to out-compete dependent countries and to penetrate and dominate them. The so-called “green revolution”6 involving hybrid seeds, pesticides, and infrastructure investment was packaged to raise agricultural productivity in order to “help” poor countries. But these and other “cutting-edge” technologies serve profit. Imperialism exports and deploys them in ways that create and increase dependency on imperialism—whether as loans to be paid back, parts replacement, intellectual property rights, and so on. For example, the global seed market is increasingly monopolized by major U.S. agro-business leading to harmful effects on biodiversity and financial dependency and ruin on the farmers who harness crops off them.
As for “climate-friendly” technologies, like solar and wind, the imperial mission set out in the Green New Deal to “help other countries” is a recipe for a kind of “climate colonialism.” Western Europe is aiming to meet its renewable energy targets in part by investing heavily in solar and wind generation in North Africa—that is, by grabbing land and renewable resources.7 Energy-guzzling California is importing wind power from Mexico. The Green New Deal incentivizes this to a whole new level. Something else: some of the raw materials required in the manufacture of this green-energy technology will be extracted from the Third World—by plundering land and super-exploiting workers.
Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development
These key principles, though not exhaustive, concentrate an orientation that enables socialist society to begin to tackle the environmental emergency with a global and internationalist perspective. In putting these principles before people today, we hope to open up debate and discussion that can contribute towards raising understanding of what we are confronting—and raise sights about the viability and desirability of communist revolution.
5. A Sustainable Economy Without Comprehensive and Integrated Planning Is a Delusion
To truly confront and act on the environmental emergency, we need a whole different kind of economy—a genuinely socialist economy in which the means of production become the common property of society through public-state ownership, an economy in which resources are allocated according to a conscious plan to meet social need and protect and repair the environment.
The Green New Deal is the opposite of this. It relies on the imperialist market, on tax breaks and government incentives for the large corporations to invest in green technology, and making green profitable—all within and reinforcing the very system of capitalism-imperialism. Capitalism-imperialism is driven by competition to relentlessly expand production for profit and more profit, a system in which the major imperialist powers contend for control of regions, markets, and vital resources of the planet, and in which the natural world is treated as just so many “free” inputs to be seized and poured into production for profit.
The Green New Deal is not about the radical transformation of a profit-based capitalist economy. It’s not about shattering a global network of exploitation. It’s not about consciously regulating growth for the betterment of world humanity. The Green New Deal is an agenda to harness a less fossil-fuel based infrastructure to the existing imperialist economy—and to keep the U.S. at the top of the imperialist world system.
The Green New Deal is one part bullshit fantasy (an easy transition to sustainability) and one part a better business plan for a green American empire.
The Green New Deal is not a “something is better than nothing” proposition. Why is it harmful? It aims to mobilize resources and know-how to secure U.S. imperial hegemony with a green face. It corrals and channels people’s outrage and concern, initiatives and energy, back into reinforcing the system that is the cause of the problem in the first place—an ACTUAL obstacle to what IS needed, which is to break out of the confines and framework of this system as part of getting rid of it. The Green New Deal does NOT get us or move us from “here” (the environmental emergency) to “there” (an economy and society that interact with nature in a sustainable way). It is a deceptive and harmful dead end.
THE ONE REAL SOLUTION
We return to the two choices: let the planet hurtle uncontrollably towards environmental disaster; or make an ACTUAL revolution to overthrow this system and transform the entire economic, social, and political framework of society, to bring about a genuine socialist society.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, authored by Bob Avakian, sets forth how a genuine socialist society would be constituted and function; how it would be meeting the basic needs of people in a way that did not plunder either the nations of the Third World or the environment; its role in the world process of getting to a world free of exploitation, oppression, and antagonistic social divides; and how such a society would be able to address and tackle the environmental crisis.
On the basis of OVERTHROWING the old order and establishing a new revolutionary state power, it becomes possible to put an end to private production for profit, to socialize the means of production, and create a planned socialist economy that can allocate resources and consciously regulate economic growth for the betterment of world humanity and protection of the planet. One of the first acts of the new socialist state would be to totally dismantle the global network of U.S. military bases.
On this foundation, it becomes possible to decisively restructure the economy away from fossil fuels, to reconfigure the entire economy, and create a new kind of sustainable economy and society. And, most importantly, it becomes possible to unleash the creativity and determination of people—from basic people to the scientists whose findings about climate change go nowhere under this system—to tackle the environmental emergency.
The new socialist society would share knowledge and expertise and promote unprecedented international cooperation to save the planet. It would put an end to America’s global, cheap labor/pollution-intensive supply chains of exploitation. This would not be the same “consumer society” with its outsized and unsustainable global ecological footprint—and it would imbue people with the understanding, ethos, and morality that we must think and act as caretakers of the planet, and proceed from the fundamental interests of all seven billion of humanity.
We challenge the many, many people who DO see the gravity of the situation to grapple with the only framework through which humanity can forge a viable answer to the existential crisis, and on a truly emancipatory basis. There is no guarantee that we will succeed in reversing the environmental damage done and its continuing effects—but this is our only shot to deal with the environmental emergency on the scale and with the urgency needed.
Bringing this society into being will take an actual revolution. Starting with this Constitution for a radically different society, we have great strengths that include the science, the leadership and strategy for an actual revolution, with the basis for organizing thousands into the movement for revolution right now (go here for Bob Avakian’s speech Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution). While this is critical, this movement does not yet have the people who are needed to make this a reality. We are setting out to radically change this (go here to learn about the National Revolution Tour). What is needed is you!
1. Bob Avakian makes the case for this in this excerpt from Part I of Why We Need an Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, where he states “the very nature of the capitalist-imperialist system dictates that competing capitalists, controlling billions of dollars of investments, and the governments of the major world powers in particular, are compelled to contend with each other for markets, cheap labor, and raw materials, including fossil fuels, and for control of strategic parts of the world.” [emphases ours] [back]
2. See “What’s actually in the ‘Green New Deal’ from Democrats?” Washington Post, February 11, 2019. [back]
3. Brad Plumer, “You’ve Heard of Outsourced Jobs, but Outsourced Pollution? It’s Real, and Tough to Tally Up,” New York Times, September 4, 2018. [back]
4. The U.S. Military and Oil, Union of Concerned Scientists, 2012. [back]
5. H.Res.109 - Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal. [back]
6. The “green revolution” was initiated by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations in the United States and promoted by U.S. aid agencies and the World Bank from 1950 until the late 1960s. It involved research and transfer of technology to raise agricultural productivity in rice and other grains in Mexico, India, the Philippines, and other Third World countries. It was aimed at increasing food production as part of a larger strategy of deepening U.S. imperialist economic penetration of these countries and preventing peasant revolution. It was highly carbon-intensive; it led to widening inequality in the countryside; and resulted in greater dependency on the West. [back]
7. See, “Another Case of Energy Colonialism,” Opendemocracy.net, September 9, 2017. [back]