the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Aug 27, 2023
Flash floods rushed onto casino floors in the Las Vegas desert. Wildfires burnt up the tropical isle of Maui. Tornadoes ripped a path running from Oklahoma to Iowa to New Jersey and Delaware. Heat waves in Texas and Colorado brought daily temperatures in the 100s, even as high as 115. Rising oceans crumbled the foundations of houses from Florida to Maine. A wild summer storm turned the Detroit airport into an island, completely surrounded by water.
Different disasters, some more deadly than others, but behind them all is the same reality: average global temperatures are rising, causing weather patterns to become more chaotic and storms more intense.
It may be worse today, but it’s not a new problem. Average temperatures around the globe have been going up for more than a century. The causes for this increase have been known and documented for decades: the pollution that modern industry spews has become a blanket wrapping the earth in its own heat, forcing up temperatures.
Some people say, scale back industry. Some people call for regulation to limit pollution. Some people close their eyes, trying to ignore the problem.
None of these provides an answer. We don’t have to blindly keep suffering. We don’t have to get rid of the advantages that modern industrial production could provide for humanity.
But this must be done: the working class has to transform the way that industry is organized.
The main industries that produce pollution are today owned and controlled by a small number of capitalist groups, most of them located in a very few countries. Those capitalist groups are the ones that decide how industry will be organized. They decide to use the oldest, most polluting forms of energy because they require no new investment. They decide not to invest in systems to alleviate pollution. They decide to ignore regulations.
Regulation? Yes, governments can regulate. They’ve been doing it for decades. But no matter what they did, they never took away the capitalists’ right to decide how to run their industries.
Even when governments began to impose changes to alleviate pollution, they did it in ways that made the population, and not the capitalists, pay for it. For example, the electrification of motor vehicles. Last year’s “Inflation Reduction Act” offers enormous subsidies for electrification in a range of industries. The price for those subsidies will be paid for by the population in increased taxes, as well as in cuts to social programs, public services and public education.
Another example: the shift away from coal and oil to so-called “renewable” sources of energy. The price for this shift is being paid in lost jobs—paid for by coal miners and oil-industry workers.
A government that serves the capitalists deals with the climate catastrophe by adding to the social catastrophe—that is, to the loss of jobs and to a spiraling fall in the workers’ standard of living.
The answer to both catastrophes is the same because the cause of both catastrophes is the same: the capitalists’ right to decide. The capitalists organize production in anarchic ways that create unemployment and rapid inflation. The capitalists organize industry in ways that make earth increasingly uninhabitable.
To save the planet, means that workers must use their position in industry to control what happens there. The people who carry out the work day-to-day are the ones best placed to know what really goes on in any workplace. They know what regulations are being violated. They can put their knowledge derived on the job to discover ways to overcome the problem of pollution.
Today, if workers reveal their boss violates pollution rules or worker safety, they can be fired for violating “trade secrets.” Thus, the capitalists’ right to decide has to be taken away from them.
To save the planet lies with those who labor on it—and in their hands alone. They are the only ones who, in dealing with their own immediate problems, can at the same time serve the long-term needs and interests of all humanity.