Interviewer: After reading The New Communism (2016), and thinking about issues that in only five years’ time have manifested more severely, as spotlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, calling even more urgently for changes to the “system that is the fundamental source of much misery and torment in the world” (8), there are several topics—climate, migration, press freedom, labor-and-supply chain, class, and human rights—that I wonder if you would be willing to speak on. I’ll enumerate below.
BA: Before turning to the specific questions you pose, which are serious and substantial, touching on important and urgent developments in the world, I wanted to make a few brief overall observations, based on my reading of these questions. The answers to these questions are, on the one hand, simple and basic, and on the other hand complex: simple and basic in the sense that the problems involved can be solved—and can only be solved—with a revolution and a radically different system, a socialist system aiming for the final goal of a communist world; and complex in that actually making this revolution, and then achieving the transformations that this radically new system will make possible, will require working and struggling through some difficult and at times intense contradictions. In my responses here I will do my best to provide answers that speak to the essential matters involved, while referring to works which provide more extensive discussion of what is raised in these questions. In particular, I refer the reader to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, which I have authored. This Constitution was written with the future in mind—as a guiding set of objectives, principles, and concrete provisions for a socialist society brought into being through the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system that now rules in this country and dominates the world as a whole. In my responses to the questions posed for this interview, I have quoted fairly extensively from this Constitution, as it provides important answers, in a concentrated way, to much that is raised in these questions.
Very relevant as well, particularly in regard to the socialist economy and its interaction with the larger environment, is the article “Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development.” Also, in addition to the book The New Communism, another work of mine, Breakthroughs, The Historic Breakthrough by Marx, and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism, A Basic Summary, is relevant as background to, and in terms of further elaboration on, the answers to important questions posed in this interview. And a recent major work of mine analyzes in depth why an actual revolution could be possible in the U.S. itself, amidst the acute and intensifying contradictions that mark this society, and the world as a whole, and how this revolution could be carried out—a revolution that would make possible the kinds of profound changes discussed in this interview. (This work—Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating: Profound Crisis, Deepening Divisions, The Looming Possibility of Civil War—And The Revolution That Is Urgently Needed, A Necessary Foundation, A Basic Roadmap For This Revolution—was written before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the further intensification of contradictions between Russian imperialism and American imperialism/NATO that has accompanied this war, with the heightened danger of direct military conflict between them; but this work provides essential analysis of the underlying and driving forces of the major conflicts in this country and the larger world, and their possible positive resolution through revolution.) These works, as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—and ongoing analysis of the war in Ukraine and other major world events—are available at revcom.us.
The New Communism—both the book and the overall method and approach—is mentioned a number of times in the course of this interview, in both the questions and my responses, and although this is not the place to extensively discuss the principles and methods of the new communism, it does seem relevant and appropriate to indicate what is at its core: The new communism represents and embodies a qualitative resolution of a critical contradiction that has existed within communism in its development up to this point, between its fundamentally scientific method and approach, and aspects of communism which have run counter to this; and what is most fundamental and essential in the new communism is the further development and synthesis of communism as a scientific method and approach, and the more consistent application of this scientific method and approach to reality in general and in particular the revolutionary struggle to overthrow and uproot all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression and advance to a communist world. This method and approach underlies and informs all the core elements and essential components of this new communism.
A concentrated expression of this is the basic orientation and approach of scientifically seeking the truth and pursuing the truth wherever it leads, including with regard to the history of the communist movement, in terms not only of its principal aspect—its very real, genuinely historic achievements—but also, secondarily but importantly, the truth about its real, and at times even grievous errors (what I have referred to as “truths that make us cringe”).
A crucial extension of this is the principle, discussed in a number of works of mine, including Breakthroughs, that
the new communism thoroughly repudiates and is determined to root out of the communist movement the poisonous notion, and practice, that “the ends justifies the means.” It is a bedrock principle of the new communism that the “means” of this movement must flow from and be consistent with the fundamental “ends” of abolishing all exploitation and oppression through revolution led on a scientific basis.
It is this basic orientation, method, and approach that I have applied to the discussion of the important questions raised in this interview.
Finally, by way of introduction, I wish to thank others who have read the questions posed for this interview and offered helpful observations in this regard, and in particular Raymond Lotta, who provided considerable valuable commentary.
CLIMATE CHANGE—CLIMATE JUSTICE
Interviewer: You rightly differentiate seeing “the possibilities for what can be” with innovation and a willingness to upset the status quo, versus talk of change only “as determined and confined by what already is.” (46). The latter is well documented in the track record of climate accords.
Do you have any thoughts or insights into how the resolutions from COP26 (Conference of Parties—a summit of governments on the global climate crisis) will play out in terms of making real and necessary change?
Thus far, wars, plagues, and natural disasters have only served to further polarize people. How would a system reconfigured according to your party’s philosophy end exploitation and oppression, emancipate humankind, and give our planet a chance to heal and transform?
BA: To begin, I want to refer readers to the website revcom.us, where extensive coverage can be found of COP26, as well as substantive analysis of the overall environmental crisis and why it cannot be solved within the confines of this system of capitalism-imperialism.
Report after report by scientific bodies studying the climate crisis have come to the conclusion that this crisis is even more dire than previous studies had indicated. As a recent article at revcom.us calls attention to:
On Monday, February 28, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the results of its newest report, which UN Secretary General António Guterres called “an atlas of human suffering.”
The article notes that 3.3 billion people “live in countries with ‘high human vulnerability’ to the effects of climate change, according to the new IPCC report.” It spells out the terrible consequences of this:
Let that sink in for a minute: over three BILLION lives potentially upended, threatened by superstorms, rising seas, catastrophic drought, deadly floods, mass food shortages, and the outbreak of climate-change-induced viruses and diseases.
And it is a stark expression of the extreme “lopsidedness” in the world that the masses of people who suffer the most from the raging climate crisis are concentrated in the poorer countries of the world, which continue to be dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system, while it is the capitalist-imperialist countries that are the main “drivers” of this intensifying crisis.
The fact is that COP26—like the Paris Accords and other such conferences and agreements before it—will do, and could do, nothing to change the disastrous course of this accelerating crisis.
To cite one significant dimension of this, the U.S. (along with other major coal producers such as India, China, and Australia) refused to sign the agreement on gradually phasing out coal production that was a product of COP26, as limited as that agreement is.
The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, and it is a major emitter of greenhouse gases, second only to China (and U.S. per capita emissions is higher than that of China—higher than that of all countries with large populations, over 100 million). Not only with the climate crisis denier Trump, but with the Obama and now the Biden presidency, U.S. production of these fossil fuels has greatly increased. Oil is a strategic necessity and instrument of imperialist competition, rivalry, and domination. The U.S. military is the single largest institutional consumer of oil in the world, and to wildly understate matters, there is no possibility of eliminating, or even reducing, this massive consumption of oil, while this system and its military remains in power and enforces the interests of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class of which it is a highly destructive instrument.
Under the domination, and subjected to the dynamics, of the capitalist-imperialist system, the destruction of the natural environment can only continue and accelerate—and even “clean energy alternatives” that are proposed, such as the production of electric cars, will, under this system, involve further poisoning of lakes and rivers and destruction of some of the largest rain forests in the world, as well as extinction of species, and will actually give rise to further carbon emissions. A number of articles at revcom.us, including ones written at the time of and in the aftermath of COP26, scientifically analyze why these measures cannot solve, but in fact will only exacerbate, the environmental crisis—and fundamentally why the capitalist-imperialist system overall can and will only intensify and accelerate this crisis.
Another salient reflection of the extreme situation with the plundering of the natural environment—and of the marked “lopsidedness” in the world—is the fact that it would take the equivalent of five earths for the rest of the world to have the level of consumption that exists in the U.S. This is something that would need to be, and would be, radically changed with the society envisioned in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
The environmental crisis is a global crisis for humanity and can only be ultimately addressed on an international level. At the same time, while it would very likely involve significant destruction—overwhelmingly as a result of the actions of the forces violently resisting the abolition of the rule of capitalism-imperialism—revolution in this country would represent a big leap not only in human emancipation in general, encouraging and supporting revolutionary struggle throughout the world, but specifically in terms of being able to address the environmental crisis, including through a much greater dimension of international cooperation, which the new socialist government would promote and struggle for. The radical transformations, in the economy, the social relations, the political institutions and processes, and the culture, the educational system and the realm of ideology and morality—as well as the fundamental internationalist orientation—that the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic embodies would give great impetus to approaching all of life and society in a profoundly different way.
In terms specifically of economic development and transformation, and its relation to dealing with the environmental crisis, I would refer once again to this Constitution and to “Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development,” where all this is addressed much more fully than is possible to do here. But to speak briefly to important dimensions of this, the whole system of transportation, as well as the overall approach to population configuration and work, including the relation between urban and rural areas, would need to be, and would be, fundamentally changed, transforming and moving beyond the ridiculous and fossil fuel dependent situation where transportation is automobile dependent and where, to cite one significant aspect of the problem, huge numbers of people are, often as single occupants of automobiles, driving large distances to and from work.
Beyond that, the entire energy grid (its storage, distribution, and consumption) would all need to be radically transformed to significantly scale up renewable energy sources. This is something that as a whole is not profitable under this system of capitalism-imperialism. The fact is that, while renewable energy sources exist, under this system they are out-priced and not as profitable as basing the economy on fossil fuels, and therefore are not “scalable”; and with what is essentially the approach of “get rich while going green”—with “getting rich” the guiding and determining principle (including with schemes such as the “Green New Deal”)—there is neither the economic basis nor the “political capital” for the massive investment (in the trillions of dollars) that would be required to really convert to an economy based on renewable energy.*
But with the abolition of this system and its driving profit imperative and constraint—and its replacement by socially determined production guided by the needs and fundamental interests of the masses of people—societal resources and people’s creativity and efforts can be unleashed and marshaled to meet social need, including the profound and urgent need to address the environmental crisis.
As an overall expression of these principles, on the basis of socialist state-public ownership of the means of production (factories, technology, warehouses, infrastructure, land, etc.) and comprehensive economic planning, it will become possible to rationally utilize society’s resources for the benefit of humanity; to consciously steer and regulate economic development; and to interact with nature sustainably. Most importantly, a new state power and economy will make it possible to unleash the creative energy and conscious activism of people: to meet all-around material and cultural-intellectual needs, overcome the great divides between mental and manual labor (those who work predominantly in the realm of ideas and administration, and those who work mainly with their hands); and go to work on saving the planet for current and future generations.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic sets forth how the radically new political institutions and structures will be established and function—enabling the masses of people, including and especially the formerly most bitterly oppressed and exploited, to take ever greater responsibility for the direction of society. These institutions will be instruments for the continuing transformation of society, and the struggle to carry that forward.
Along with the transformation of the economy to uproot relations of exploitation, a fundamental objective of the new society and government set forth in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic is the elimination of the oppression of women, and all discrimination and oppression based on gender, as well as the emancipation of all nationalities (or “races”) that are brutally oppressed under the capitalist-imperialist system. Once again, concrete policies and measures in this regard are spelled out in this Constitution.
* It is true that the cost of generating power with renewable energy sources like wind and solar has dropped significantly, largely the result of technological advances, along with more globalized, cheap-labor sourcing and production of materials (like rare earth minerals for batteries, for example, lithium, cobalt and others), components, and final products. And in absolute terms, renewable energy has grown significantly. But fossil-fuel production and consumption have skyrocketed. Technological advances like hydraulic fracking have opened up and cheapened production of new sources of shale oil and natural gas, making natural gas in particular highly competitive and profitable. Thus, over the 30 years between 1990 and 2020, the share of natural gas and coal in utility-scale electricity generation in the U.S. declined a mere 5 percent—from 65 percent to 60 percent! In other words, the “market” is not putting an end to “dirty energy” (no more so than are global climate summits).
For the larger-scale transition of the U.S. economy as a whole away from fossil-fuels—an economy that has historically evolved in relation to fossil-fuel dominance with its associated infrastructure and huge technology investments that must be profitably recouped—would require massive “capital investment” in new, cheap, and efficient forms of storage and modernized transmission in the electric utility grid nationally. This is so because the new sources of renewable energy are often intermittent (subject to changing weather conditions, for example), and this energy needs to be stored to meet demand as needed. Also, solar and wind sources are often distant from energy consumption centers like major cities, and therefore need to be transmitted more efficiently than the current system and infrastructure allow. Once this scale of additional investment is factored in (broadly estimated in hundreds of billions of dollars), the “fully loaded” costs of renewable energy sources increase significantly as part of the transition of the economy as a whole away from fossil-fuels. While particular corporations, competing blocs of capital, involved in renewable energy generation may or may not be profitable currently, this additional capital investment required is—and poses—a prohibitively high barrier under this system of capitalism-imperialism, its functioning and workings: which includes its global supply chains and transport that pivot on super-exploitation and cheap fossil fuels.
All of what is being described illustrates why this economic system does not facilitate the rapid and massive energy transition and restructuring to renewable energy so urgently needed to protect the planet. [back]